Israeli researchers develop invisibility cloak – but you can’t see it, yet
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Harry Potter, here we come

Israeli researchers develop invisibility cloak – but you can’t see it, yet

'Cloaking carpet' will deflect light so objects placed upon it do a disappearing act, say Ben-Gurion University scientists; next step is to develop a prototype

Researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev have theorized a way to divert the path of light, rendering objects invisible (Photo credit: kostsov at iStock by Getty Images)
Researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev have theorized a way to divert the path of light, rendering objects invisible (Photo credit: kostsov at iStock by Getty Images)

Israeli researchers say they have theoretically developed a breakthrough “cloaking carpet” that would render an object placed on it invisible.

According to a recent study published in Nature’s Scientific Reports, scientists from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) have conceived a new method that deflects and scatters light away from a “cloaking” chip surface so that objects laid upon it can’t be seen.

“We have engineered a new kind of meta-surface, an artificial material on a chip that can be put on any object so that it manages to create a new path for the light, deflecting light from the object and rendering it invisible,” said Dr. Alina Karabchevsky, head of BGU’s Light-on-a-Chip Group and a faculty member of the BGU Unit of Electro-Optical Engineering and the Ilse Katz Institute for Nanoscale Science and Technology.

In a phone interview with The Times of Israel, she called the method “hiding above the carpet.”

The visual ability of humans and animals stems from the interaction of light, eyes and brains: we have the ability to see because light from an object can move through space and reach our eyes. Objects we see are actually reflecting light into our eyes.

Dr. Alina Karabchevsky. head of Ben-Gurion University’s Light-on-a-Chip Group (Dani Machlis/BGU)

Now the researchers say that they have devised a way to deflect light and stop it from hitting objects, so that the light is not reflected to us and the objects are therefore invisible to our sight.

“We have created a new path for the light,” she said. “The artificial material on a chip makes the light bend around the object, resulting in the invisibility of the object.”

The interesting part of their cloaking design, she said, was that if the object covers 70 percent of the meta-surface, or what she calls the carpet, it can be concealed.

At the moment, Karabchevsky said, the theory shows how cylindrical nano-particles with a refractive index of 1.3 can be made invisible.  Other objects, both metal and non-metal, can become invisible as well, using the theory proposed by the Light on a Chip group, she said. Water, human body fluids, Teflon, all have a refractive index of around 1.3 as well.

The next step, Karabchevsky said, will be to develop a prototype to prove the theory right.

The cloaking chip can be used as an extension of existing technologies such as radar-absorbing dark paint used on stealth aircraft, local optical camouflage technologies, surface cooling technologies to minimize electromagnetic infrared emissions, or electromagnetic wave scattering, the university said in a statement.

“These results open the door to new integrated photonic devices, harnessing electromagnetic fields of light at nanoscale for a variety of applications from on-chip optical devices to all-optical processing,” Karabchevsky said.

She did not mention Harry Potter.

Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak (courtesy)
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