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Monday, January 31, 2011

Metaflex, a material for invisible cloaks

Invisible cloaks outside of the confines of a movie may be just around the corner. Scientists at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland have created a new material they are calling Metaflex that can bend and channel light.

Such materials have been created before, but Metaflex is significant because it not only allows manipulation of light, but it can also be used on a flexible surface. Until now similar metamaterials have only been possible on a hard, rigid surface.

Adding flexibility means that an invisible cloak could eventually be made. More practically, it means making clothing that allows the wearer to turn invisible will be easier to manufacture.

Writing about Metaflex in the New Journal of Physics the researchers said:

Arguably, one of the most exciting applications of Metaflex is to fabricate three-dimensional flexible MMs (metamaterials) in the optical range, which can be achieved by stacking several Metaflex membranes on top of one another.

These results confirm that it is possible to realise MMs on flexible substrates and operating in the visible regime, which we believe are ideal building blocks for future generations of three-dimensional flexible MMs at optical wavelengths.

Metaflex may bring to mind images of walking around invisible, but it also has applications for producing much better lenses called superlenses. It also opens the way for new projects to research what other uses Metaflex could have in different fields.

Matthew’s Opinion

The military will be all over this research and offering bags of money to be the first and exclusive beneficiaries of the final product. A soldier that is invisible is a lot harder to kill after all.

There is a dilemma faced if this technology ever became good enough to render someone completely invisible. Do you make it publicly available? While the initial wow factor would mean it sold very well, it would also lead to problems due to lots of people walking around completely invisible. There would be more traffic accidents, more (less?) cases of stalking, thieves would have a field day, and there would be cries for regulation and a ban.

There’s still a long way to go before such a development ever happens, but when and if it does I suspect you’ll never see an invisible cloak for sale in your local clothes store.

Your feedback is always welcome.
Thank you!

How to Become Invisible 1/3


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