A real-life invisibility cloak (Photo : Duke University)
Ever wish you could be Harry Potter? You might not be able to wave your wand around and defeat the most sinister wizard around, but there is something that might become a reality soon - cloaking. Potter's invisibility cloak allows him to be imperceptible to literature's naked eye, and now a group of researchers from Duke University have figured out a way that could possibly avoid detection in real life.
The new 'invisibility cloak' is the result of a team member who was part of 2006 team that created the first functional cloaking device back in 2006.
"In order to create the first cloaks, many approximations had to be made in order to fabricate the intricate meta-materials used in the device," Duke graduate student and lead author of the study Nathan Landy said.
The problem with this first attempt was simple: the viewer was aware he or she was looking through a glass. Sure the actual object being cloaked wasn't present, but to those looking at it, it was obvious that there was something amiss.
"One issue, which we were fully aware of, was loss of the waves due to reflections at the boundaries of the device," Landy explained. "Since the goal was to demonstrate the basic principles of cloaking, we didn't worry about these reflections."
After some recalculating, the team decided to go with a diamond-shaped structure, in order to bend and reflect light in the proper way as to make it seem that there was nothing in the way.
"Each quadrant of the cloak tended to have voids, or blind spots, at their intersections and corners with each other. After many calculations, we thought we could correct this situation by shifting each strip so that it met its mirror image at each interface," said Landy.
"We built the cloak, and it worked," he said. "It split light into two waves which traveled around an object in the center and re-emerged as the single wave with minimal loss due to reflections."
Don't think this will allow you to sneak out of your house, however. The cloaking effect is limited to a particular viewpoint, and we still have a long way to go before we figure out a way to be completely inconspicuous.
"It's like the card people in Alice in Wonderland. If they turn on their sides you can't see them but they're obviously visible if you look from the other direction," Professor David Smith of Duke University said to BBC.