Friday, March 13, 2009

Behold the Appearance of the Invisibility Cloak

Magicians make things on stage vanish with mirrors and sleight of hand. Physicists are learning to make objects disappear by crafting artificial blind spots from strange new fabrics that deflect revealing electromagnetic waves.

Once perfected, these man-made vanishing points could make buildings disappear to cellphones to eliminate static, or make military missile launchers invisible to radar and infrared sensors.

Recommended Reading

In January, David R. Smith and his colleagues at Duke University reported research on an experimental invisibility device in Broadband Ground-Plane Cloak.

In Nature and Science, Xiang Zhang and his colleagues at the University of California, Berkeley, engineered 3-D metamaterials that can reverse the natural direction of visible and near-infrared light.

This month in Physics Review Letters, physicists at Hong University of Technology and Science devised a way to make things at a distance disappear from view.

A paper published this month in SIAM Review, "Cloaking Devices, Electromagnetic Wormholes, and Transformation Optics," presents an overview of the theoretical developments in cloaking from a mathematical perspective.

A more general primer on metamaterials appears in The Berkeley Science Review in (Meta)material World.

The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is exploring potential military applications. The U.S. Office of Naval Research is also investigating the topic.

The most amazing part of this article:
researchers are exploring whether metamaterials can be made that manipulate sound, seismic and water waves. Physicists led by the French National Center for Scientific Research are applying the principles to breakwater structures that could hide offshore platforms and small islands from tsunami waves. Their experimental dike can steer waves in water around things in the same way that light and microwaves can be redirected.

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