Print 67 comment(s) - last by tjstkrueger.. on May 29 at 4:16 PM

The new cloaking device developed at Purdue Unviersity is cheaper as it does not rely on exotic materials. Composed of gold films and glass, it can also cloak much bigger objects and cloaks most wavelengths of light. It is built using a specialized waveguide, a type of optical instrument found in fiber optics.  (Source: Purdue University)
Breakthrough device represents major improvement over past efforts

For those dreaming that the Star Trek technology of cloaking will one day become reality, they can take note of the steady progress that real-world cloaking technology has been making.  The goal of cloaking research is to find ways to redirect light around a shape, from all directions, in essence making it so the shape disappears to the naked eye.  Scientists have had success working with nanoscale objects using special lenses.

Cloaking science or "transformation optics" as its more formally called has until now relied on exotic "metamaterials" to redirect light.  However, a breakthrough from Purdue University has created a "tapered optical waveguide" that accomplishes the same behavior at a lower cost and without using exotic compounds.

The new cloak is not only cheaper, it also performs better -- it can cloak an area of up to 100 times the wavelengths of a laser, while previous designs only managed a few times the wavelengths.  Additionally, where metamaterials could only cloak part of the spectrum, this design can cloak light from a variety of wavelengths.

Vladimir Shalaev, Purdue University's Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, used it to cloak objects up to 50 microns -- the size of a human hair.  The cloak consisted of two thin gold layers -- one flat, on bottom, and another on top of the cloaked object.  The top layer was curved to act as a "hyperlense" an optical instrument with extraordinary capabilities.

Professor Shalaev describes the breakthrough, stating, "All previous attempts at optical cloaking have involved very complicated nanofabrication of metamaterials containing many elements, which makes it very difficult to cloak large objects.  Here, we showed that if a waveguide is tapered properly it acts like a sophisticated nanostructured material.  Instead of being reflected as normally would happen, the light flows around the object and shows up on the other side, like water flowing around a stone."

Hyperlenses, like this superb new one from Purdue, promise to revolutionize many fields of optics.  Where typical materials bend light -- a phenomenon known as refraction -- they keep its original direct with respect to a perpendicular line from the surface.  Hyperlenses, however, can actually have an index of refraction of less than 0, allowing the light to reverse direction.  Cloaking devices take advantage of this behavior to curve light around objects.

The lenses could revolutionize optical computing, create super-microscopes able to image DNA, cloak objects, and much more.

The new work raises hopes of large-scale cloaks (think Harry Potter's Invisibility Cloak), as it enables one device to cloak many wavelengths, unlike past work which would have necessitated many devices.  There has been no derived theoretical size limit for objects cloaked, so large scale cloaking may be possible as cloaking devices are refined.

The research appears in the May 29 edition of the journal Physical Review Letters.

The paper was co-authored by other researchers on the project -- Igor I. Smolyaninov, a principal electronic engineer at BAE Systems in Washington, D.C.; Vera N. Smolyaninova, an assistant professor of physics at Towson University in Maryland; Alexander Kildishev, a principal research scientist at Purdue's Birck Nanotechnology Center.  BAE fabricated the device to cloak the objects, based on the Purdue team's theoretical work.

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RE: Wide Spectrum Coverage
By mrwxyz on 5/21/2009 12:45:16 PM , Rating: 5
correct me if im wrong, but wouldnt cloaking all wavelengths of light basically leave you blind on the inside of the cloak...this tech would trap you in a bubble that you cant see into and cant see out of. still quite useful and awesome, but seems like we need to move in another direction to effectively cloak people.

RE: Wide Spectrum Coverage
By JasonMick on 5/21/2009 1:11:00 PM , Rating: 5
Not if you have two little eye holes in your big cloak of invisibility ;-)

RE: Wide Spectrum Coverage
By Ammohunt on 5/21/2009 1:45:35 PM , Rating: 2
Reminds me of that stupid invisble man movie with Kevin Bacon so if you are totally transparent including your retnas how can your eye balls work?

RE: Wide Spectrum Coverage
By Seemonkeyscanfly on 5/21/2009 3:11:22 PM , Rating: 2
by closing your eyes... or are the closed already? hmmm... I guess taking a nap in the afternoon would really suck. Eyelids would be an issue too.

RE: Wide Spectrum Coverage
By Alexstarfire on 5/21/2009 1:55:28 PM , Rating: 3
Depends. Ever heard of a one way mirror? Could end up working similar to that.

RE: Wide Spectrum Coverage
By guidoq on 5/22/2009 2:44:13 AM , Rating: 2
unlikely. to see something light has to reflect off the object and bounce toward your eye. When the light is heading toward your eye it would get caught in the cloak and be directed around you. You really couldn't see out.

RE: Wide Spectrum Coverage
By bill3 on 5/22/09, Rating: -1
RE: Wide Spectrum Coverage
By bill3 on 5/22/09, Rating: -1
RE: Wide Spectrum Coverage
By bill3 on 5/22/09, Rating: -1
RE: Wide Spectrum Coverage
By PrinceGaz on 5/22/2009 4:59:03 PM , Rating: 2
Given that the main picture which accompanied the article was one of a Romulan Warbird, which is over 1 km (0.6 miles) in length, I was hoping that a breakthrough had been made and we were now able to cloak something large enough to not require an electron-microscope to "see". But maybe Jason is right and they'll be able to cloak large objects like military aircraft in the next decade or two. For some reason, I don't think they will be able to, though.

RE: Wide Spectrum Coverage
By MrPoletski on 5/25/2009 11:08:29 AM , Rating: 2
military would be more interested in getting this to work on radar I think.

Then we will end up with multi-phased or polychromatic radar and ecm systems and then we'll be one step closer to star trek.

RE: Wide Spectrum Coverage
By yomamafor1 on 5/22/2009 12:36:38 PM , Rating: 2
Can I have some of what you're smoking?

RE: Wide Spectrum Coverage
By MrPoletski on 5/25/2009 11:35:19 AM , Rating: 2
Science fails every time, thats all you need to remember. Seriously, when is there EVER a real scientific breakthrough these days?

You are so far wrong, the crap you spew is damaging to those around with nieve eyes.

Science is the pusuit of knowledge of our universe. Science gave you the computer you're typing these posts on. It gave you the fact you can do this remotely instead of walking to the dailytech poster board and sticking a note physicallyy to it. It gives you every single thing you use that hasn't just come straight out the ground or sky. Your car, your hifi, your house, your clothes, your wallet, your watch, your lifespan, your trailer, your dead end job, your moms basement. All of that exists because of scientific breakthroughs allowing them or their component parts conception, manufacture, refinement and or their very discovery.

Take somebody from 500 bc, bring them to the future.

Try explaining to them how stealth technology on an F22 works... the basics.

Simple, primary means of reduced radar cross section is to shape the aircraft in such a way as to reduce the reflected radar signals back to the receiver.

Try explaining that to somebody from 500 bc, or even somebody from the 1850's. you'd get the biggest WTF face you've ever seen. you'd be called a madman for your proposterous tales of giant metal flying things that have invisible rays shot at them so people can see where they are.

Well the unthinkable happened and that technology did arrive.

Bottom line is and your cretinous post demonstrates that you are breaking th enumber one rule of intelligent thought.

Never allow the limits of your own feeble conception get in the way of what you think might be possible at some point, ever.

RE: Wide Spectrum Coverage
By tjstkrueger on 5/29/2009 4:07:44 PM , Rating: 2
Naive eyes don't know how to spell.

"You are so far wrong, the crap you spew is damaging to those around with nieve eyes."

RE: Wide Spectrum Coverage
By FaceMaster on 5/22/2009 9:22:26 AM , Rating: 2
this tech would trap you in a bubble that you cant see into and cant see out of.

You mean like... a wall!

RE: Wide Spectrum Coverage
By OblivionMage on 5/22/2009 4:41:38 PM , Rating: 2
You could have some sort of camera outside that you connect to in order to see whats going on.

RE: Wide Spectrum Coverage
By aatnet on 5/23/2009 10:06:58 AM , Rating: 2
And how would u connect to the camera? :-)

RE: Wide Spectrum Coverage
By Lastfreethinker on 5/23/2009 4:55:59 PM , Rating: 2
You are and you are not. If you were able to only prevent the light from being reflected off you then you could see while others could not see you.

RE: Wide Spectrum Coverage
By mindless1 on 5/23/2009 5:06:26 PM , Rating: 2
Then they would see you, you'd just look like a dark mass instead of colorful.

RE: Wide Spectrum Coverage
By Lastfreethinker on 5/23/2009 5:18:04 PM , Rating: 2
True, which is why it would only work in space, and even then the applications would be limited. Since you just look for the gap of stars.

RE: Wide Spectrum Coverage
By JonnyDough on 5/24/2009 8:48:26 PM , Rating: 1
Hey moron. First of all, who cares if you can see? You can still receive radio signals. So a predator drone in the air and a commander can tell you when to expose yourself and fire, giving you an element of surprise. Also, there are other ways to "see". Light isn't required to see.

"So if you want to save the planet, feel free to drive your Hummer. Just avoid the drive thru line at McDonalds." -- Michael Asher

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