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.