Real Life ‘Invisibility Cloak’ Makes Objects Vanish

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October 5, 2011 9:10 PM EST

Researchers from the University of Dallas in Texas have made fact out science fiction. A new cloaking device that uses the "mirage effect" can hide objects from view and even works under water.

The team of researchers have used heated up carbon nanotubes to replicate nature's mirage effect. The mirage effect refers to the phenomenon that occurs in the desert or during hot days that can make you see things even if they're not there. Changes in temperatures can cause light rays to bend thus sending the image directly to the eye rather than first being bounced off the surface. A mirage of water in the desert then is nothing more than the blue sky being redirected to your eye. The brain substitutes an image that will make more sense rather than just seeing blue sky in the ground.

The carbon nanotubes in the cloaking device reproduce the same mirage effect. The tubes are heated to over 2,500 degrees Kelvin in mere milliseconds. The heat generated can cause light rays to bend away from any object concealed behind the sheet of carbon nanotubes.

"The carbon nanotube cloaking device that we have demonstrated in this work is based on a mirage effect that is [a] naturally occurring optical phenomenon in which light rays are bent by the refraction gradient created by the hot surface," said lead author Ali Aliev from the Alan G. MacDiarmid NanoTech Institute at the University of Texas in the U.S. of the study published in the current issue of Nanotechnology.

Zhe Liu from the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Monash University in Melbourne was excited by the material's cloaking abilities, but pointed out that there are more applications for the work.

"Not only does this research advance the state-of-the-art as far as the science of cloaking is concerned, but it also has bearings on many other areas of science and engineering, including in thermo-acoustic projectors and sonar," he said. "Above and beyond all else, this study shows that there are still undiscovered applicational 'gems' out there where carbon nano-materials are concerned."

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