spaceSpace and Physics

This Ultrathin "Invisibility Cloak" Makes It Impossible To See Microscopic Objects


Jonathan O'Callaghan

Senior Staff Writer

2481 This Ultrathin "Invisibility Cloak" Makes It Impossible To See Microscopic Objects
This illustration shows the gold nanoantennas reflecting light like a flat mirror. Berkeley Lab.

Scientists have revealed they have developed a minuscule "invisibility cloak" that renders tiny objects impossible to see. Importantly, the microscopic design is scalable, meaning it could be applied to things that aren't, you know, the size of a bacterium.

The research was published in the journal Science and conducted by scientists from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of California, Berkeley. They created a tiny “skin cloak” of gold nanoantennas, which was just 80 nanometers thick. The cloak was designed to reflect light waves in such a way that an object it covers appears flat.


When placed over an irregularly shaped microscopic object, about the size of a few biological cells, the cloak reflected incoming red light differently at various locations, depending on how pronounced their features and bumps were. This caused the object to appear flat, rather than its original shape, as the light was reflected off the cloak like a mirror.

"This is the first time a 3D object of arbitrary shape has been cloaked from visible light," said lead author Xiang Zhang of Berkeley Lab in a statement.




Above is a video of the cloak in action. Berkeley Laboratory.

Of course, this does mean that it is not a "true" invisibility cloak – you are not seeing through an object, rather it just appears flat. But it is still able to hide an object from view, hence making it invisible in one sense.

The biggest breakthrough is that it is "easy to design and implement, and is potentially scalable for hiding macroscopic [large] objects," added Zheng. For example, if worn on clothing, the technology might be able to make a beer belly look flatter. Alternatively, a face mask could hide pimples and wrinkles from view. "You can imagine if someone has a fat belly, like me, and he wants to look nice, he could put this layer on and it will look like a six pack," he told the Guardian.

Incredible. You're all wizards, Berkeley. Oh crap.


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