April 23, 2011

Metamaterials and an invisibility cloak

Sounds like a Klingon cloaking device if you’re a Star Trek buff. What used to be the staple of science fiction is now almost reality thanks to ‘metamaterials’ and their ability to guide electromagnetic waves around an object and emerge on the other side as if they had passed through nothing but air. the result: They eliminate all reflection and shadows, thus rendering an object invisible. Early this year, Duke University made one that measures 20 inches by four inches and is less than an inch thick. Its 10,000 pieces are made of the same fiberglass material used in circuit boards. It uses algorithms to determine the shape and placement of each piece in the cloak.

I’ve been researching metamaterials for a book I’m writing. I like including weird science in my plots. I’d show you a picture of something shrouded in an invisibility cloak, but, well, if you’re a James Bond fan, remember his invisible car? Like that.

Here’s an amazing article from the BBC, gives you a sense of what it would be. This British art student painted her car to match the surroundings, invisiblesimulating invisibility. Kinda. Even if it’s not perfect, it’s amazing.