The invisibility cloak from the iconic “Harry Potter” may not be as far-fetched a dream as many consider it to be. Scientists have developed a coating that can make curved surfaces seem flat, creating the illusion of there being no object at all.
Researchers from the Queen Mary University of London’s School of Electronic Engineering and Computer Science have worked with the U.K. industry to come up with a practical cloaking device coating that uses graded refractive index nanocomposite materials to reduce an object’s electromagnetic signature, making it appear flat.
The university released a statement Friday that notes, “The effect is to ‘cloak’ the object: such a structure can hide an object that would ordinarily have caused the wave to be scattered.”
Professor Yang Hao, a co-author of the study, said in the statement: “The design is based upon transformation optics, a concept behind the idea of the invisibility cloak.”
“Previous research has shown this technique working at one frequency. However, we can demonstrate that it works at a greater range of frequencies making it more useful for other engineering applications, such as nano-antennas and the aerospace industry,” he added.
Although Potter’s invisibility cloak is still not a reality, this development could have a significant impact on life as is known to human kind.
Luigi La Spada, the first author of the study, said: “The study and manipulation of surface waves is the key to develop technological and industrial solutions in the design of real-life platforms, for different application fields.”
“We demonstrated a practical possibility to use nanocomposites to control surface wave propagation through advanced additive manufacturing. Perhaps most importantly, the approach used can be applied to other physical phenomena that are described by wave equations, such as acoustics. For this reason, we believe that this work has a great industrial impact.”
An example of this would be antennae, which could be oddly shaped but still work just as effectively as their straight counterparts.
The research is funded by an Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council program grant and was published in the journal Scientific Reports.
In September 2015, the University of California, Berkeley, developed a type of invisibility technology that reflects light to keep objects hidden. Their method uses gold nanoantennas to “reroute reflected light waves” so that the object it is covering is invisible when the gold’s polarization is turned on. However, the scale is microscopic — “barely” 80 nanometers thick and only large enough to cover a few biological cells — according to a release by the institution.