Cloak of invisibility becomes more foreseeable

Scientists in Germany successfully cloak a bump in a layer of gold. The new cloaking device, made of seemingly light-bending crystals, even works in three dimensions.

Chris Matyszczyk
2 min read

It came too late for Jesse James. There was a time, indeed, when John Edwards might have found it very useful, but that time has surely passed.

In life, timing is everything. So while researchers at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany claim that they have made a breakthrough in invisible-cloak technology, there are far too many mortal souls who can only wish that they would hurry up.

According to the Associated Press, the German scientists managed to successfully hide from greedy eyes a tiny bump in a layer of gold.

When I say "tiny," I mean 0.00004 inches high and 0.0005 inches across, which perhaps is a size that the tiny would describe as infinitesimal. Still, the journey to disappearance consists of many tiny steps. And "in principle, the cloak design is completely scalable," Tolga Ergin, the leading researcher on this project, told the AP. "There is no limit to it."

The world's invisibility experiments still have a long way to go. CC Lynnsta/Flickr

Perhaps, like me, your huge excitement at the thought of being able to vanish for a while was cruelly dampened by Ergin's use of the phrase "in theory." The problem, it seems, is the time it takes to make one of these garments of optical illusion. It's not as if you can get some sweatshop to knock one out.

There is still cause for a frisson of optimism. The German team used infrared waves, ones that reside closely to our spectrum of visible light. And this research brought fruition to the idea that a cloak could work in 3D.

The actual cloak was, according to the scientists' report, "a woodpile photonic crystal with tailored polymer filling fraction." Roughly speaking, they seemed to have created a light bender made up of crystals, in between which were spaces of air.

"We have made a first step in producing 3D structures in that field," Ergin told the AP.

Some might find it sad that technology in areas such as social networking and online shopping moves at such a rapid pace, when something so deeply useful to a harmonious society might take so many more years.