Scientists move one step closer to creating Harry Potter's invisibility cloak

From the curious things department and Queen Mary University of London:


Scientists at Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) have made an object disappear by using a composite material with nano-size particles that can enhance specific properties on the object’s surface.

Researchers from QMUL’s School of Electronic Engineering and Computer Science, worked with UK industry to demonstrate for the first time a practical cloaking device that allows curved surfaces to appear flat to electromagnetic waves.

While the research might not lead to the invisibility cloak made famous in J.K Rowling’s Harry Potter novels quite yet, this practical demonstration could result in a step-change in how antennas are tethered to their platform. It could allow for antennas in different shapes and sizes to be attached in awkward places and a wide variety of materials.

Co-author, Professor Yang Hao from QMUL’s School of Electronic Engineering and Computer Science, said: “The design is based upon transformation optics, a concept behind the idea of the invisibility cloak.

“Previous research has shown this technique working at one frequency. However, we can demonstrate that it works at a greater range of frequencies making it more useful for other engineering applications, such as nano-antennas and the aerospace industry.”

The researchers coated a curved surface with a nanocomposite medium, which has seven distinct layers (called graded index nanocomposite) where the electric property of each layer varies depending on the position. The effect is to ‘cloak’ the object: such a structure can hide an object that would ordinarily have caused the wave to be scattered.

The underlying design approach has much wider applications, ranging from microwave to optics for the control of any kind of electromagnetic surface waves.

First author Dr Luigi La Spada also from QMUL’s School of Electronic Engineering and Computer Science, said: “The study and manipulation of surface waves is the key to develop technological and industrial solutions in the design of real-life platforms, for different application fields.

“We demonstrated a practical possibility to use nanocomposites to control surface wave propagation through advanced additive manufacturing. Perhaps most importantly, the approach used can be applied to other physical phenomena that are described by wave equations, such as acoustics. For this reason, we believe that this work has a great industrial impact.”


68 thoughts on “Scientists move one step closer to creating Harry Potter's invisibility cloak

  1. There is no way this is not going through military control first and foremost, this is at best old science newly reported.
    Any such tech would immediately be commandeered under national security

    • You are horrifically optimistic about the competence of our militaries. Second, it doesn’t work on things in motion, or from different perspectives. As active camouflage, it’s effectively useless for the foreseeable future,

    • it’s really not that hard to hide tiny objects with other means.
      the special properties of metamaterials do not scale.
      the bigger the object and the broader the spectrum the harder it is to conceal.
      sunlight and size mean you won’t be hiding anything that matters with metamaterials.
      it may end up having no application whatever.
      for now it’s just fun with physics.

      • I have lots of fun with physics
        But if you have a wife, she will be able to illuminate you regarding the distinction between a hobby and a job.
        I have my fun at my own expense and don’t take from you to support my hobbies.

    • The military already has cloaks for frequencies other than visible light. IR reduction and stealth for various microwave energy. Considering planes and ships are painted to match their surroundings and modern weapons are launched beyond visible sight This tech really doesn’t matter too much. Be good for tanks though, not to mention the average GI.

    • Commandeered? Most likely the research involved here was no doubt funded by the US government in the first place.

  2. Only seven distinct frequencies? Or broader bands with seven central frequencies? The first would only be effective against a laser-illuminated vision system, while the second might be useful.

      • Indeed. If only it was that good.
        I’m a great fan of J.K.Rowling, but there are some prime ejits out there who also read her books.

      • The marauders map on the other hand is very doable now. I suspect tagging people with stealth GPS is an active field.

      • Well Alberich’s Tarnhelm was also probably not the first invisiblator.
        If Harry Potter can skim mucho bucks off teenies, for J.K. Rowling, then more power to her. Capitalism is good.

  3. An absorbed, non scattered wave would make the object appear black, the only way you can achieve true visibility is to project the environment behind it.

    • Very true. When tuned to visible wavelengths, the object is black, or looks like a hole in the world right in front of you. When tuned to various microwave wavelengths used for radar, it is called “stealth”.

      • ALL radiation from everything behind the object must propagate beyond the object completely unaltered, in order for that object to be rendered invisible.
        That implies that the radiation must pass un-deviated through the object and un-attenuated, or else it must alter course around the object and return to its prior path, unchanged in any way.
        I suspect the Optical Sine Theorem prohibits any such system; which ultimately rests on the second law of thermodynamics. At least Rudolph Clausius said so (and proved it).
        Since A = Sin(A) = Tan(A) is not true for finite size (not infinitesimal) angle (A), no perfect optical system is possible, even without having to remove a blockage. The image cannot be both sharp and also geometrically undistorted, except for infinitesimally small angles.

      • An invisible cloak must be a photographic plate that creates a hologram of the environment behind it. So it’s not the bending of light rays to create an image but the recording and reconstruction of a light field. This way Clausius prohibition can be avoided.

      • So Dr. Strangelove, I guess Clausius was an idiot.
        Why not describe just one way the second law of thermodynamics can be avoided.
        PS Holographic plates require a laser to illuminate them, so they are totally dependent on coherent illumination. They also have very limited fields of view.
        Have YOU ever seen a hologram that looked even remotely like ANY real scene ??
        Just asking !

      • NO Optical system exists (at any wavelength range) that can form a sharp geometrically undistorted REAL image of ANY finite sized three dimensional object. That means in practice or in theory.
        There is at least one (maybe it is two) real realizable optical system that CAN (in theory) form a VIRTUAL image of a REAL three dimensional finite sized object; BUT !!
        It can only form such a virtual image of ONE very specific REAL finite sized object. (specific to that optical system). The virtual image (in the limitation or ray optics (ignoring diffraction effects)) is an exact (mathematically) geometric likeness of the real object at one very specific scale.
        The only such real object that can be virtually imaged, is a portion of a spherical shell (surface), and of course the virtual image is a concentric spherical shell image.
        One possible system makes a smaller scale image, and the other makes a larger scale image. In one system, the object is inside the optical element, and in the other system, the virtual image is inside the optical element, so the object or the virtual image can only exist in theory, and are probably not physically realizable.
        No real lens such as a camera lens can form a geometrically undistorted image of any finite sized three dimensional object. By finite size we mean an object that is not miniscule compared to the focal length of the lens.
        For example, NO lens of say 100 mm focal length can form a 3D image of say a Rubik’s cube, that is not geometrically distorted (grossly).
        The reason for that is that any such lens forms an image at some lateral magnification (m) that also has a longitudinal magnification (along the optical axis), and the longitudinal magnification is (m)^2.
        So a cube of say 80 mm side, forming an image at 1/5 lateral magnification, (so an 80 mm square looks like a 16 mm square image, but the axial depth of the three D image will be only 1/25 of 80 mm, so much less than 16 mm.
        Even that is not correct, because the two faces of the cube being at different distances from the leans, will have different lateral magnifications, so even weirder axial magnifications.
        Even a very small object is likewise distorted. A 1 mm cube imaged at a 1/5 magnification would be 0.2 x 0.2 x 0.04 mm so grossly distorted.
        So don’t expect any undistorted “images” of invisible real objects any time soon.

  4. I maybe cannot see you, but I can see a problem arise if you are invisible and standing in the middle of the road.
    Kids these days.

    • Hey TonyL! Perhaps what you are describing is not a cloak of invisibility, but rather a cloak of inanimation.

  5. This is the technology that made Brexit possible.
    We are going to cloak the UK so the Eurocrats will no longer be able to find us.

  6. Wait now, something is wrong with your headline photo. How is it light from the background scenes goes right through the invisible person but not light from the sun to obliterate the shadow. I want my money back.

    • There are two possibilities.
      1: It’s monodirectional, similar to the forced perspective trick in cinematography. I’ve seen “invisibility cloak” technology that works in that way (however, that was a camera-projector trick, so it would look like the guy’s wearing a cloak in the shadow).
      2: It’s Photoshop.
      My bet’s on 2.

  7. I invented the invisability cloak years ago, it’s just gathering dust in my garage, next to my antigravity device, cold fusion experiment and my temperamental doomsday device…

  8. Now the warmists can hide all the increasing Antarctic sea ice. Just paint it with the nano-stuff!
    Even better, use it to hide the decline!

    • Since a cloak doesn’t know your perspective angle there should be some artifacts on a real cloak. The photo is pretty low resolution which would hide some artifacts.
      The photo has been stripped of EXIF data.
      A really clean file makes me suspicious it was photoshopped then cleaned.

  9. This discovery is a big step forward for climate science. It will prove invaluable in making inconvenient truths like the 1940s warm peak, the Medieval, Roman and Minoan warm periods, ice ages, indeed all palaeo climate records, such an obstacle to the CAGW narrative, disappear!

  10. I’m a 48yr old white disabled vet in rural area.
    I am already invisible……
    for 5$ each I’ll tell people how to do it LOL

    • Transparency works …

      In the open ocean, where there is no background, the principal methods of camouflage are transparency, silvering, and countershading, … link

      There are lots of transparent critters. Some of them are pretty gross because not every part of them is equally transparent.

  11. If we want to learn the art of invisibility, why not study cats more? Perhaps we could learn how they teleport, as well.

    • All I have to do is run the electric can-opener and my cats appear instantly, RoHa.
      Similarly, all our enemies would have to do is pop the top on a bottle of beer and pour it into a glass, shout “Jack Daniel’s chaser!” and our troops would magically appear.

    • No, if you were observant, you would have noted the category we have for “curious things”, where we cover the occasional oddity in science and technology. But you aren’t.

  12. This is old news. The AGW Climate Crusaders have employed invisibility cloaks against the facts and prediction error for years.

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