Mar 192010
 

The "nanostructure" of tiny rods bends light around a bump in the gold surface

Scientists have created the first device to render an object invisible in three dimensions.

The “cloak”, described in the journal Science, hid an object from detection using light of wavelengths close to those that are visible to humans.

Previous devices have been able to hide objects from light travelling in only one direction; viewed from any other angle, the object would remain visible.

This is a very early but significant step towards true invisibility cloaks.

Tolga Ergin, a scientist from the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany led the study.

He told BBC News that his team’s cloak was based on the concept that you can “transform space” with a material.

He and his colleagues designed a photonic metamaterial, which influenced the behaviour of light rays.

“You can think of any transformation that you would like to have, and tailor your material to mimic this,” he explained.

The basis of the design is known as a “carpet cloak”. This was first proposed by Professor Sir John Pendry from Imperial College London, who also took part in this study.

“He proposed the theoretical design of having an object hidden under a bump and making the bump disappear,” said Mr Ergin.

“It’s like a carpet mirror,” he continued. “If you hide an object under it, there is a bump, so you see a distortion in the reflected image.

“We put the carpet cloak on top of that bump and it bends the light so that the distortions disappear.

“You have the impression that the mirror you’re looking at is flat.”

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