AUSTIN (KXAN) - When you hear the term invisibility cloak, it seems straight out of Harry Potter. But University of Texas researchers have developed an invisibility cloak for this world.
It doesn't hide an object from sight, but it does hide them from radio waves, like radar.
"By covering a finite object with a plastic wrap that is less than a millimeter thick, the object can then appear invisible to radio waves," said Andrea Alu, UT assistant professor . "It can lose most of its scattering."
To test the cloak, Alu places a ceramic cylinder in the way of radio waves. A robot measures the waves from all directions around the object. After putting the cloak over the cylinder, they run the experiment again.
"What we do is to design a cover or a cloak to put around the object that it eliminates all the scattering from the object," said Alu.
It looks like the waves pass through the object like it's not there.
Last year, the researchers were successful with a thicker cloak and decided to go a step further. The latest version is a much thinner and flexible plastic laced with copper traces in a specific pattern.
"This can have more exciting applications," said Alu. "For instance, imagine if you have a post, a metallic post, in front of an antenna. By placing this flexible surface around it the post would essentially disappear to the antenna. So it can improve wireless communications and give you better reception for wireless communications or radio."
Down the line, Alu says there are even more ways to use this science.
"These same cloaks can be used to realize optical biomarkers for biomedical applications, realize better sensors for better microscopes for medical imaging and also improve the harvesting, the extraction, of energy from nearby sources," said Alu.
Alu also says that cloak that'd make something disappear to the naked eye is not completely out of reach.
"If we wanted to scale down this concept to light and make an object disappear to our eyes rather than to a radar then we would need to scale everything down," said Alu. "The object itself would become much smaller."
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