metamaterial masking moves toward practical application

24 02 2011

Via Rachel Courtland, New Scientist. Issue 2800

NOW you see it, now it looks like something else. Radar images might never be the same again, thanks to an illusion device that can change an object’s appearance. The technology could ultimately be used to hide military aircraft.

The device is part of a growing family of metamaterials – structures designed to steer light along curved paths. They have already been used to make objects appear invisible and to disguise a gap between two objects.

Wei Xiang Jiang and Tie Jun Cui’s team at Southeast University in Nanjing, China, have created a structure that changes the way radio waves interact with a copper cylinder so that it appears to be composed of another material altogether.

Copper conducts electricity well and reflects incoming radio waves, giving it a bright radar signature. To alter this behaviour, the team built a device made of 11 concentric rings of circuit boards etched with small metal-lined channels that prevent electromagnetic waves reflecting away. Instead, they guide the waves in a direction that the researchers choose specifically to make the hidden object appear to have different electrical properties.

Placed around a copper cylinder, the arrangement created the illusion that the cylinder was made of a dielectric, a class of materials including porcelain and glass that do not conduct electricity and are more transparent to radio waves.

"Electromagnetic cloak"

A similar waveguide that rendered small objects invisible was tested in 2009.

The illusion only worked when the cylinder was viewed from the side; what’s more, the imaginary object it generated was the same size as the original. Future designs would have to account for all three dimensions, and might produce an illusion quite different from the object they disguise.

“In principle, this technology could be used to make an illusion of an arbitrary shape and size,” says Cui, whose team created an electromagnetic “black hole” for light in 2009. Similar illusion devices could eventually be used for stealth technology: for example, to “convert the radar image of an aircraft into a flying bird”, Cui says.

The work, which will be published in Physical Review E, is still at an early stage, however. At 45 millimetres, the team’s illusion device is three times as wide as the cylinder it disguised. “Their device is still fairly bulky relative to the original object, so further work needs to be done before a real device can be deployed,” says John Pendry of Imperial College London.

Although invisibility devices were invented first, the illusion technology might win the race to be put to practical use. “It is easier to falsify something than to hide it,” Pendry says.

The team next plans to explore ways to design devices with more complex shapes.





hyde definition’s new look

6 08 2010

Hyde Definition, the digital camouflage and concealment company I run, has finally finished revamping its website. Well actually, not quite, as there are still one or two things that need adding and tidying, but to all intents and purposes it is done. Come on over and take a look!

"Hyde Definition web page"





metamaterials, laser resin and invisibility cloaks

6 08 2010

Metamaterials can bend light around objects to render them near-invisible, begins a recent report in New Scientist. But it is an imperfect, lossy process, meaning some light is absorbed on its way through the metamaterial, and therefore the object remains semi-visible.

Now a team of scientists at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana have invented a light amplifying resin ‘sandwich filling’ which, when stimulated by a laser, creates gain in the electro-optical signal, restoring the ‘lost’ light. The “negative-index metamaterial” means that an object can now conceivably be made  invisible to specific wavelengths of light.

Previous metamaterials, utilising nanoholes in a carbon matrix, IIRC, were able to mask objects in the microwave end of  the electromagnetic spectrum, but visible light has until now been elusive.

A wearable device is still light years away (pardon the pun!), but military installations, ships and even armoured vehicles are most definitely foreseeable near-term applications for the invisibility treatment.

Watch this space. Not that you’ll see anything ;-)





exclusive – government reveals strategy to camouflage national debt

1 04 2010

As seen in this morning’s FT. I’m a tad disappointed no-one from the media approached me for a subject matter expert comment on this. For instance, they forgot to mention mimetic resemblance, wherein a potentially dangerous thing (e.g. Quantitative Easing) pretends to be something harmless (i.e. charitable giving from a conjurer’s hat of magic money), like when the Canadian Freshwater Shark mimics a floating log in order to catch its favourite prey – lumberjacks. It’s a fishy business, government spin. Anyhow, my scanner isn’t working, so I took a photo of the article for posterity, and copied the content below (my italics added):

A secret Treasury memo leaked this morning reveals how the government intends to mask the enormity of our country’s crippling financial deficit, using classic subterfuge techniques commonly used by the military to disguise men and equipment.

The communiqué, issued from Chancellor Kevin Darling’s office, was addressed to Merkin King, governor of the Royal Bank of England.

It outlines steps – to be taken by spokespeople when issuing statements to the press about piscal policy – that are intended to obscure the size of the national debt, including:

• Dividing the deficit into sub-units, such as external and internal liability and short term and long term indebtedness, thus making the overall amount harder to perceive: this is similar to disruptive camouflage used by many animals to break up the contours and symmetry of their bodies or by soldiers to obscure the shapes of men, vehicles and aircraft.

Blending the debt against a background context of world insolvency, similar to camouflage colours and patterns employed by soldiers’ combat uniforms to match the environment.

• Diverting scrutiny away from the issue by focussing attention on the United States’ even more embarrassing monetary problems, known as misdirection by camouflage experts.

• Mentioning the amount of borrowing quickly and indistinctly whilst simultaneously coughing into a hand and waving at an imaginary friend across the road: another form of misdirection.

Pass this article on to all those you know – it’s time we call the politicians’ bluff and show them that they can’t pull the wool over our eyes!





multicam makes the cut in the dirtbox

22 02 2010

Following a pre-emptive announcement on Soldier Systems on Feb 17th, the US Army confirmed that it will be fielding Crye’s Multicam pattern in Afghanistan, replacing the maligned Universal Camouflage Pattern (UCP) and effectively ending trials of a recoloured derivative, UCP-D, that attempted to resolve some of the concealment issues around UCP by adding a fourth, earth (‘Coyote’) brown colour.

The Army Times has this:

By Matthew Cox – Staff writer
Posted : Sunday Feb 21, 2010 9:07:31 EST

The Army will begin fielding MultiCam, a more effective camouflage pattern for Afghanistan, in August. Soldiers deploying in late summer will be the first to receive the new versions of the Army Combat Uniform; soldiers already in theater will begin getting them in the fall.

MultiCam, made by Crye Precision LLC, bested the existing digital pattern and others in multiple Army tests.

MultiCam was “21 percent less detectable than UCP,” the pattern used in ACUs, said Col. Bill Cole, project manager for Soldier Protection and Individual Equipment.

“MultiCam was the clear winner,” he said.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey was convinced of MultiCam’s effectiveness based on that statistic, Cole said.

“He’s an infantryman … when he saw that, he said, ‘You mean I can get this much closer to the enemy before I’m seen?’” Cole said. “That’s what he wanted.”

Secretary of the Army John McHugh approved Casey’s recommendation Feb. 19.

The 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, at Fort Polk, La., and the Iowa National Guard’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division, will be the first to receive MultiCam. The new uniforms will also feature other improvements slated to be incorporated in all future ACUs over time, including an improved collar and buttons to replace some Velcro.

Soldiers will receive four sets of MultiCam uniforms, four combat shirts and matching combat gear, Cole said.

“Anything they would wear on a dismounted combat patrol will be in MultiCam,” Cole said.

The Feb. 19 announcement came after a multiphase effort that culminated with soldiers from Fort Bragg, N.C., Fort Campbell, Ky., and Fort Drum, N.Y., evaluating hundreds of calibrated photos of the Army’s Universal Camouflage Pattern and five alternative patterns taken in different settings in Afghanistan.

"021710at_multicam_2_800"

Soldiers wearing Multicam

So is MultiCam a step backward, returning camo design  to old-skool analogue patterns with swirly woodland shapes? Not at all! While it is not a pixellated pattern like UCP, the Marine’s MarPat, or Canada’s CadPat, it is still a digital designed pattern, and is far more advanced than any camo fielded in the 1980s and ’90s. Its design takes advantage of improvements in computer software that were unimaginable in the days of the Cold-war, allowing a complex pattern to be assembled from many different overlapping images, with colours tweaked to match environmental samples at the touch of a button. Before it was even printed, the concept was validated using sophisticated simulations of the pattern in different environments.





image of the day

10 02 2010
"LCpl Ross MacDougall, 1st Battalion Scots Guards, provides force protection during a CASAVAC Training Exercise during 4 Mechanized Brigade's Mission Specific Training (MST) on Salisbury Plain."

Picture: Sergeant Dan Harmer RLC, Crown Copyright/MOD 2010

Desert DPM: the British Army’s secret new-old multi-terrain camouflage!





dreamin’ of a white christmas?

23 12 2009
Finnish snow camo

Finnish M-05 snow camo on Strike-Hold!

Over at Strike-Hold!, Lawrence has been as busy as Santa’s elves collating a wish-list of  currently available (although how available might depend on who you are!) snow camouflage. Have you written your letter to QM Claus yet? If not, check it out!





coast clear for invisibility cloak?

21 08 2009

An illustration of a person wearing an invisibility cloak

For now, the invisibility cloak remains a thing of science fiction

From BBC News, Thursday 20th August 2009

A physicist has said he hopes to make major advances in the field of invisibility in the next two years.

Professor Ulf Leonhardt at St Andrews University is working on a blueprint for a cloaking device that could also be used to shield coast lines.

The researcher, who cites the Invisible Woman and Harry Potter as inspiration, has been working on the concept of invisibility since 2006.

The project will focus on a connection between light and curved space.

Prof Leonhardt, who describes his invisibility work as “geometry, light and a wee bit of magic”, hopes to manipulate modern metamaterials – or “designer atoms” to create an invisibility device using the laws of refraction.

He believes that in bending light, transparent materials like glass or water appear to distort the geometry of space, which is the cause of many optical illusions, including invisibility.

‘Extreme ideas’

Prof Leonhardt said: “The idea of invisibility has fascinated people for millennia, inspiring many myths, novels and films.

“In 2006, I began my involvement in turning invisibility from fiction into science, and, over the next two years, I plan to develop ideas that may turn invisibility from frontier science into applicable technology.”

Although the professor admitted it was difficult to predict possible applications, he suggested invisibility research could be used to improve visibility, leading to the development of the perfect retroreflectors (cats eyes), better microscopes and improved lenses.

He added: “I will most certainly find easier ways of cloaking, but it remains to be seen how practical they are.

“The important thing is to understand the foundations and come up with something new or take an existing idea to extremes; using technology and ideas to make things happen – technology we cannot imagine would ever exist.”

The project is being funded by the Royal Society’s Theo Murphy Blue Skies Award.





school for snipers

13 08 2009

Two recent posts on the Strike-Hold! website resonate with me. The first concerns the International Special Training Centre (ISTC) Sniper Course at Grafenwoehr, Germany. The article itself is a worthwhile read, but most striking is this picture:

U.S. Army Master Sgt. Eric Ludan, an instructor for the International Special Training Centre's (ISTC) Sniper Course provides feedback to two Special Forces Soldiers following a live-fire exercise July 24 at the Grafenwoehr Training Area. The Sniper Course is an intense five-week course that teaches NATO Special Operations Forces (SOF) in basic sniper fundamentals. The students spent the night stalking and observing their targets during the evaluated exercise. The facilities at the Joint Multinational Training Command allow the SOF throughout NATO to train to standard. (U.S. Army Photo by Staff Sgt. Gina Vaile-Nelson, 133rd MPAD)

U.S. Army Master Sgt. Eric Ludan, an instructor for the International Special Training Centre's (ISTC) Sniper Course provides feedback to two Special Forces Soldiers following a live-fire exercise July 24 at the Grafenwoehr Training Area. The Sniper Course is an intense five-week course that teaches NATO Special Operations Forces (SOF) in basic sniper fundamentals. The students spent the night stalking and observing their targets during the evaluated exercise. The facilities at the Joint Multinational Training Command allow the SOF throughout NATO to train to standard. (U.S. Army Photo by Staff Sgt. Gina Vaile-Nelson, 133rd MPAD)

If ever a more succinct illustration were needed of the benefits of selecting your personal concealment with the terrain of your operational area in mind, surely this is it. See how the US Army’s ‘Universal’ Camouflage Pattern (UCP) stands out like a glowing grey ghost against the lightly wooded background, and even the khaki-looking Multicam worn by the spotter in the middle of the picture appears out of place. In a real operation, the spotter would no doubt have customised his garb with dirt, scrim and fresh foliage to render it less visible, or even worn a ghillie like the German sniper in the foreground, but I have reservations about the utility of such techniques when used to attempt to compensate for UCP’s ineffectiveness. A pig wearing lipstick is still a pig.

The other Strike-Hold! story that I found particularly interesting tells of how some British soldiers in Afghanistan’s Helmand province are dyeing their desert camouflaged under-armour combat shirts (UBACS) a curious greeny-blue. You can read it here. UK readers may have seen about this in the Daily Mail or the Sun (where a disengenuous, hysterical spin was put on the issue to make more of the story than meets the eye), but the original source of the pictures, and a hint as to the  explanation why, is found in Michael Yon’s excellent blog, penned from the frontline in Afghanistan.

Into the Green Zone

Into the Green Zone

I can’t help wondering how something like this might work, out in the green zone…

PenCott multi-environment camouflage pattern

PenCott multi-environment camouflage pattern

PenCott multi-environment camouflage pattern

PenCott multi-environment camouflage pattern

Sniper wearing PenCott multi environment camouflage pattern in open farmland

Sniper wearing PenCott multi environment camouflage pattern in open farmland




kitty kat cornershot camo

20 06 2009

I thought this was someone’s idea of a joke when I first saw it. But, no – the demonstrator in the video below is deadly earnest (not Deadly Ernest, the comic pro-wrestler from Manchester, UK, but instead, a very, very serious company man ).

Cornershot camo

Cornershot camo

Now, the Israeli Cornershot system is a useful ‘force multiplier’ for dismounted urban operations, but I guess that to those being observed  through its barrel mounted video system it is still obvious that a gun barrel is pointing at them from round the edge of a wall. Until someone came up with this unconventional idea…

Link

Thanks to F Gruenert/ICUS for the tip.








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