Picture this: Invisibility cloak made from glass

Another scientist is working on helping you hide from those pesky ninja assassins. Great, but when are we going to see a working cloak already?

Leslie Katz Former Culture Editor
Leslie Katz led a team that explored the intersection of tech and culture, plus all manner of awe-inspiring science, from space to AI and archaeology. When she's not smithing words, she's probably playing online word games, tending to her garden or referring to herself in the third person.
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Leslie Katz
2 min read

Once or twice a year, we bring all you "Harry Potter" fans news of yet another invisibility cloak under development. So it is that we return with word of another scientist promising to help you perform your wizardry in secret.

This time, it's Elena Semouchkina who's venturing into H.G. Wells territory. An associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at Michigan Tech University, Semouchkina has found a way to use magnetic resonance to route rays of light around objects, making the objects undetectable by the human eye.

Other researchers have bent visible light using things like wires, and even a so-called metamaterial, composed of the fiberglass material used in circuit boards and etched with copper, that can detour electromagnetic waves around a 3D object and reconnect them on the other side. That creates an effect similar to a distant mirage you'd see hovering above a road on a hot day.

Elena Semouchkina
Elena Semouchkina holds the ceramic resonators that enable her to make objects appear invisible in microwave frequencies. Michigan Technological University

Semouchkina and colleagues at the Pennsylvania State University, where she is also an adjunct professor, used another metamaterial made of tiny pieces of chalcogenide glass arranged concentrically in the shape of a cylinder. When hit by infrared waves, the glass resonators produce the magnetic resonance required to bend light waves around an object.

Hidden away in Michigan Tech's Electrical Energy Resources Center lab, Semouchkina and her team have been testing their invisibility cloak rescaled to work at microwave frequencies and say they have cloaked metal cylinders 2 to 3 inches in diameter and 3 to 4 inches high.

"Starting from these experiments, we want to move to higher frequencies and smaller wavelengths," Semouchkina said. "The most exciting applications will be at the frequencies of visible light."

OK, OK, but when we will we be able to turn ourselves into the next Claude Rains? "It is possible in principle, but not at this time," Semouchkina said.

If you're interested in a (way, way) more technical explanation of the latest invisibility cloak tech, the researchers detail their work in a recent issue of the journal Applied Physics Letters, published by the American Institute of Physics (you can scroll through the entire paper in this PDF).

As for us, we just want an invisibility cloak that works--and soon. We've got lots of pesky ninja assassins on our tail.