The concept of a cloaking device, which continued through all five Star Trek series, was introduced to a new generation through the Harry Potter movies, and has become a staple in space video and internet games such as Eve Online. Those who engage in fantasy role playing games such as Dungeons and Dragons are familiar with magic cloaks.
But the idea of cloaking technology is not just a fun sci-fi or fantasy concept. According to a BBC
report, scientists have now succeeded in "cloaking" objects.
In the past, one obstacle that has stood in the way of cloaking technology was reflection. Researchers knew that light waves will reflect even off of clear glass. Although you can see through the glass, you are aware that the glass is present due to reflected light waves.
Duke University scientist Nathan Landry told Next Big Future
"One issue, which we were fully aware of, was loss of the waves due to reflections at the boundaries of the device. Since the goal was to demonstrate the basic principles of cloaking, we didn't worry about these reflections."
That obstacle may have been overcome however. In a Nature Materials
article published on Sunday, Landry and fellow Duke University scientists David R. Smith say they have been able to develop a diamond shaped device made out of copper strips which allows any type of wave, such as light waves, to strike a surface and be reflected or absorbed. This new breakthrough now allows objects to be "perfectly cloaked".
The cloak works by using microwave radiation and is unidirectional (invisibility is only achieved from one very specific direction). But, the fact that researchers have been able to create a "perfect cloak" at all is extremely promising.
According to the IBTimes
, Landry explained that initially each quadrant of the cloak had voids, or blind spots at their intersections and corners. After hours of calculations, they corrected the problem by shifting each copper strip so that it met its mirror image at each interface.
Landry went on to say
"We built the cloak, and it worked. It split light into two waves which traveled around an object in the centre and re-emerged as the single wave with minimal loss due to reflections."
Smith told BBC News
"This to our knowledge is the first cloak that really addresses getting the transformation exactly right to get you that perfect invisibility. 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."
Both Smith and Landry are hopeful that their newest research will one day lead to the development of an omnidirectional
"I think it's something that a lot of people can build on. Everything in this field is going to come down to what you can make, what you can design. And I think this steps up the design."