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The making of a flexible invisibility cloak

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Well, don't expect a Harry Potter style invisibility cloak just yet. But researchers at the University of St Andrews have developed a flexible metamaterial that is a step closer in that direction.

Before 1999, it seemed impossible to render objects invisible. But over the past decade, researchers have been actively searching for the perfect material that could be used to change the laws of physics and make objects disappear. Recently, scientists have created an invisibility cloak made of glass and even created a three-dimensional cloak.

However none of cloaks could bend light in the visible spectrum. They were too clunky.

Size matters if you want to create an invisibility cloak that can make objects disappear to the naked eye. Andrea Di Falco, a researcher at the University of St Andrews, developed a flexible metamaterial that might get us closer to fabricating smaller nanostructures. Di Falco's thin-film polymer research was published in the New Journal of Physics.

To make things invisible, the light would have to hit an object then return to its normal path. Metamaterials can literally do that, by changing the way the light bends around objects. Normally light bends as it passes through different types of materials. The textbook example is when light changes its path when it travels through air to water.

Instead of fabricating the material on silicon, Di Falco decided to make a single layer film.The metamaterial might be more flexible than silicon, but it still can't bend light on a random shape (like Harry Potter's body).

But don't expect Di Falco to begin manufacturing Harry Potter-style cloaks anytime soon. Scientists still need to understand how the metamaterials will behave.

Making objects invisible isn't all fantasy. Developments in metamaterials could lead to better camera lenses and contact lenses. And invisible cloaks could allow aircrafts to fly under the radar and could get rid of that annoying static on your cell phones.

via BBC

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Boonsri Dickinson

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Boonsri Dickinson is a freelance journalist based in San Francisco. She has written for Discover, The Huffington Post, Forbes, Nature Biotech, Technewsdaily.com, Techstartups.com and AOL. She's currently a reporter for Business Insider. She holds degrees from the University of Florida and the University of Colorado at Boulder. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure