Aug 092011
 
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An undergraduate student has overcome a major hurdle in the development of invisibility cloaks by adding an optical device into their design that not only remains invisible itself, but also has the ability to slow down light.

The optical device, known as an ‘invisible sphere’, would slow down all of the light that approaches a potential cloak, meaning that the light rays would not need to be accelerated around the cloaked objects at great speeds ? a requirement that has limited invisibility cloaks to work only in a specified region of the visible spectrum.

This new research, published on August 9, in the Institute of Physics and German Physical Society’s New Journal of Physics, could open up the possibility for a potential invisibility cloak wearer to move around amongst ever-changing backgrounds of a variety of colours.

Under the guidance of Professor Ulf Leonhardt, Janos Perczel, originating from Hungary and reading Logic, Philosophy of Science and Physics at the University of St Andrews, acknowledged the huge potential of the invisible sphere and was able to fine-tune it so that it was a suitable background for cloaking.

The usual approach to designing an invisibility cloak works on the basis of bending light ? using highly specific materials ? around an object that you wish to conceal, thereby preventing the light from hitting the object and revealing its presence to the eye of the observer.

When the light is bent, it engulfs the object, much like water covering a rock sitting in a river bed, and carries on its path making it seem as if nothing is there.

Light, however, can only be accelerated to a speed faster than it would travel in space under certain conditions, and this restricts invisibility cloaks to work in a limited part of the spectrum ? essentially just one colour.

This would be ideal if somebody was planning to stand still in camouflage; however, the moment that they start to move the scenery will begin to distort, revealing the person under the cloak.

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