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David R. Smith with Cloaking Device  (Source: Duke University)
New algorithm makes it much faster to build cloaking metamaterials

Cloaking technology is the stuff of dreams and science fiction for many of us. The reality of cloaking objects is getting nearer as scientific breakthroughs pave the way for a technology that was once nothing but a dream.

DailyTech has been covering cloaking technology as it matures for a while now. This week, a new breakthrough in cloaking technology has been made by scientists from Duke University. The team working on the project includes engineers from different departments within the university.

The researchers say that the latest advance in cloaking technology comes thanks to the development of a new series of mathematical algorithms that are used to guide the design and fabrication of the required exotic composites needed for the cloaking process. These exotic composite materials are known as metamaterials.

The key to metamaterials is that the scientists are able to design materials with properties that are not easy to find in natural materials. The metamaterials are then used to form cloaking structures that are able to guide electromagnetic waves around an object.

The waves are guided away from the object being cloaking in a way that makes the waves act as if they had passed through empty space. The scientists working on the project are publishing their findings in the January 16 edition of the journal Science.

Authors of the paper include Ruopeng Liu, the developer of the algorithm, and Chunlin Li. The research teams senior member is David R. Smith, professor of electrical and computer engineering at Duke. After the completion of the algorithm, the research team was able to construct the cloaking device from concept to fabrication in only nine days.

The team points out that their first cloaking device took four months to build. The significant reduction in build time is attributed to the new mathematical algorithm. The algorithm makes it possible to custom-design the metamaterials with specific cloaking characteristics. The algorithm determines the shape and placement of each piece of the metamaterial.

Smith said in a statement, "The difference between the original device and the latest model is like night and day. The new device can cloak a much wider spectrum of waves — nearly limitless — and will scale far more easily to infrared and visible light. The approach we used should help us expand and improve our abilities to cloak different types of waves."

During the research, the scientists used the cloak to make a dot on a mirror appear as if it wasn’t there. An experiment had the researchers pointing microwaves at the bump on the mirror. The cloak used in the experiments measures 20-inches by 4-inches and was less than an inch high.

The cloak was made from more than 10,000 individual pieces arranged in parallel rows and according to the researchers, more than 6,000 of those pieces are unique. The pieces used to construct the cloak are made of a fiberglass material that is used in circuit boards and etched with copper.

Liu said in a statement, "The ability of the cloak to hide the bump is compelling, and offers a path towards the realization of forms of cloaking abilities approaching the optical. Though the designs of such metamaterials are extremely complex, especially when traditional approaches are used, we believe that we now have a way to rapidly and efficiently produce such materials."

The researchers say the cloaking technique could lead to new metamaterials that can be used to focus light, leading to lenses that are more powerful.

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By Comdrpopnfresh on 1/16/2009 12:58:45 PM , Rating: 1
Being able to focus light could mean the ability to focus electromagnetic radiation of a shorter wavelength...
-Radiation treatment for cancer could be much more exact
-X-rays could be better focused on fusion materials to induce fusion at more palatable temperatures and pressures
-Gamma radiation could be directed around someone donning a radiation suit with 'cloaking' built in... the last of the big three types of radiation could be tamed, negating the use of meters of water, inches of lead, inches of glass, or feet of cement

this is a very important field to follow up on- it has the ability for mass applicability for many existing technologies; leading to better efficiencies, wider uses, easier use, and less expense. It could also spur new technologies previously never dreamed about.

By William Gaatjes on 1/17/2009 7:22:42 AM , Rating: 2

Being able to manipulate photons will open up entirely new possibilities. For example mixing. Mixing is used to change a certain sgnals frequency into another frequency.
With soundwaves you can use for example downmixing to be able to here the sounds bats and dolphins make. In the RF field it is used to provide music and television. We need metamaterials to do this in the elektromagnetic spectrum field in and above the Ghz range.

I have seen a xxGhz circuitboard at my work. There where almost no components. The copper traces on the pcb( not really a pcb but some special kind of material) where not really traces but where made up of different kinds of shapes. These shapes behave the same as capacitors and inductors at very higher frequencies in the GHZ range.
The same as capacitors and inductors do in low frequency electronic circuits.

With metamaterials we will be able to go even further. I am thinking of mixing , faster ways of detecting when a signal is present or not, amplifiying, frequency modulation.

By TheEinstein on 1/20/2009 3:11:39 AM , Rating: 2
Good points all. However to call it "cloaking" is a very bad idea. Since in effect it bends and rebends a specific band it is not cloaking since that would require many portions of the bands.

I hate how the publishing of it as "cloaking" is occurring. When it can handle purple, red, blue, green, yellow and orange, then I will accept the terms "cloaking". However since this would be impossible, then I wish they would stop.

By makius on 1/20/2009 4:23:35 AM , Rating: 2
It could also spur new technologies previously never dreamed about.

Ya like Holodecks, invisible Gundams and outrageously expensive nipple concealers! Havent you been listening?

"A politician stumbles over himself... Then they pick it out. They edit it. He runs the clip, and then he makes a funny face, and the whole audience has a Pavlovian response." -- Joe Scarborough on John Stewart over Jim Cramer
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