The Harry Potter invisibility cloak is one step closer to reality. Researchers at UC Berkeley developed breakthrough nanotechnology to successfully cloak a 3-D object. A recent paper published in Science Magazine by Xiang Zhang reveals a new technology wherein an ultra-thin metasurface fabric wraps completely around the object.
Currently, this technology only works on tiny objects just a few cells in size, but Zhang believes it is merely a matter of engineering to upscale this technology to create a usable technology. A huge advantage to this new technology is that it can completely erase the edges of the object, which could not be achieved by earlier technologies.
The cloak’s surface is covered with tiny gold antennae that redirect light’s reflection. These antennae can be programmed, thus making a curved object appear flat, or recreate the background, rendering the object invisible. In fact, this technology could work to create the illusion of almost anything. This potentially has military uses, such as cloaking tanks or aircraft, or more eccentric uses in beauty and fashion to camouflage imperfections.
Scientists have been working to develop an invisibility cloak for about a decade, most commonly using devices to bend light around an object. A major drawback was that these previous technologies only worked from a certain angle. A slight adjustment in the angle of view make the object visible again. Because this metafabric wraps completely around the object, the object can appear invisible from any angle.
The cloak, made of magnesium fluoride, is only about 50 nanometers thick. For comparison, a human hair is about 2000 nanometers in width.
A major flaw in the technology is that the object must remain motionless to appear invisible, because the cloak must be programmed to precisely match the background. But at the rate at which nanoscience is progressing, we may see practical applications within the next decade.
While we are still a long way from creating military camouflage comparable with the concealment of the aliens in the Predator movie, science is continuing to break barriers. Ongoing research evolves to make science fiction become science fact.