Real-life Cloaking Device Developed in USBy Michelle
October 21, 2006 - 5:25 PM
Technology to hide objects that has been compared to Star Trek's cloaking device and Harry Potter's invisibility cloak is under investigation at Duke University.
The Los Angeles Times reported that Duke researchers have developed a device that can hide objects by bending electromagnetic waves to pass around the object, hiding the object from an observer, though at present the "invisibility cloak" works only with microwave radiation and only in two dimensions.
"It's a very good achievement...it's surprising that it's as simple as it is and that it works so well," said physicist Ulf Leonhardt of the University of St. Andrews. Tests of the new device offer the first steps in proving a theory first published only a few months ago, similar to one Leonhardt has worked on.
One of the electrical engineers who worked on the device, Duke's David R. Smith, said that the device's shortcomings stemmed from how rapidly they worked to develop a prototype. "We did this work very quickly...and that led to a cloak that is not optimal," he said, adding that his team has the technology to develop a more effective cloak that will hide a three-dimensional object the size of a toaster. In order to bend visible light waves, nanofabrication techniques will likely be necessary.
The most immediate applications for the technology would be to focus solar energy onto collection cells or to enable wireless transmissions to bypass structures. Much of the funding for the research comes from the military.
"But cloaking a Romulan spaceship, a tank or even a human would create a serious limitation," notes the article, which can be read in full here.