Windows into the Imagination

Friday, July 8, 2011

Science Fact or Fiction: Make Me Invisible

In fantasy, we have the invisibility cloak. In science fiction, we have the cloaking device. In superhero mythology, we have the invisible man or woman. In James Bond, we have the invisible car.
At one time or other, everyone seems to want to be invisible. But is it possible?
German scientists have found a way to make an object vanish by putting a "cloak" over it.
“We put an object under a microscopic structure, a little like a reflective carpet,” said Nicholas Stenger, one of the researchers from Karlsruhe Institute of Technology who worked on the project. 1
In this field of transformation optics, they use photonic crystals that partially bend light waves to suppress the light scattering from objects. So far, they've successfully concealed a small bump on a gold surface, but it will be many years before they are able to hide something as large as a person or a vehicle.
Next up is optical camouflage which looks far more promising. Invented by Susumu Tachi, a professor of computer science and physics at the University of Tokyo, it seems to work exactly like the invisible wonder car in James Bond.
The material, retro-reflectum, is made up of ‘retro-reflective material’ coated with tiny light-reflective beads. The cloak has cameras that project what is on one side of the wearer to the other. True camouflage that makes the wearer blend into any environment.
From a short distance, the projection is bright, even in broad daylight. And it's multi-dimensional.
Amazing, but true.

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