Invisibility Cloaks Possible, Study Says

May 25, 2006

Rarely, if ever, does physics news pique the interest of Pentagon brass, Harry Potter fans, and aspiring Romulans—those cloaking-device-wielding Star Trek baddies.

But a paper in tomorrow's issue of the journal Science might. In it researchers lay out design specs for materials that they say will be able to bend electromagnetic radiation around space of any size and shape.

The translation for Star Trek fans: Invisibility shields may not be science fiction for much longer.

(Also see "Invisibility Shields Planned by Engineers" [February 2005].)

The theoretical breakthrough is made possible by novel substances called metamaterials.

Invented six years ago, the man-made materials are embedded with networks of exceptionally tiny metal wires and loops.

The structures refract, or bend, different types of electromagnetic radiation—such as radar, microwaves, or visible light—in ways natural substances can't.

"[Metamaterials] have the power to control light in an unprecedented way," said Sir John Pendry, a theoretical physicist at England's Imperial College London.

"They can actually keep it out of a volume of space, but they can do so without you noticing that there's been a local disturbance in the light."

Theoretical Proof

The new study is by Pendry and physicists David R. Smith and David Schurig of Duke University in Durham, North Carolina.

The report explains not only how an invisibility cloak might work but also how to make one … in theory, at least.

Continued on Next Page >>


SOURCES AND RELATED WEB SITES

ADVERTISEMENT

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC'S PHOTO OF THE DAY

NEWS FEEDS     After installing a news reader, click on this icon to download National Geographic News's XML/RSS feed.   After installing a news reader, click on this icon to download National Geographic News's XML/RSS feed.

Get our news delivered directly to your desktop—free.
How to Use XML or RSS

National Geographic Daily News To-Go

Listen to your favorite National Geographic news daily, anytime, anywhere from your mobile phone. No wires or syncing. Download Stitcher free today.
Click here to get 12 months of National Geographic Magazine for $15.