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 😉




5 responses

5 11 2010
Marshall Barnes

Really, I’m tired of these exaggerations on the part of metamaterial engineers, beginning with the ones at Duke University’s engineering school back in 2008, claiming to bend “light”, to make anything invisible. Using the word “light” implies operating in the visual frequency range which these devices have yet to do. None of these firms are working on “invisibility”, instead there are looking for a sexy application for metamaterials. As a result, they are missing the mark, which by default is good for me, however. Yet, the practice of using inappropriate wording just to get attention, is unprofessional at best.

As an expert in optical invisibility research, I find this science by press release is getting really old.

5 11 2010
Dom Hyde

Hi Marshall. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I’m of the opinion that cracking one segment of the optical spectrum is do-able, as microwave energy has been ‘cloaked’ already.

Now, someone needs to combine this with photonic crystals to compensate for the ‘black hole’ effect in the metamaterial for those parts of the spectrum that can’t be restored with the laser gain method.

5 11 2010
Marshall Barnes


I agree that it might be “doable”, but until it has been done, it shouldn’t be described as “bending light”.

The glaring thing that everyone overlooks is the operational aspect of these metamaterial cloaks. The focus has been on the physics and little if any attention has been placed on the practical application in the modern battlespace and in what configuration will cloaking still be functional while simultaneously being seamlessly adaptable to the functioning of the platform to which it is attached.

I’ve watched with interest as these so-called experts have wrestled with these various approaches, in particular the British “invisible”, tank that utilizes electro-camouflage. Of course I’ve not seen pictures or video of the “demonstration” that was given, except for silly simulations of what it might look like.,2933,306678,00.html

Never mind that the British tank has one major flaw that no one has described yet, but which I will reveal in an upcoming online article, if for no other reason than to save them some money and maybe save a few lives in the process.

Meanwhile, by 2012 (if not before), I will have devices for optical invisibility perfected for some operational uses, although I will be limited to making them available to American forces only. And no, I won’t be revealing any details on how they work or why or when, as in addition to being technically astute, I am well versed in how open source and white intelligence can be gathered for useful application by one’s enemies. And in this world, we Americans have plenty of those…

5 11 2010
Dom Hyde

I’d say the invisible tank has several flaws, chief of which is that, as described, its flat panel displays will only work if viewed perpendicular to the display surface, and out of strong direct sunlight.

I also wonder what would happen if the vehicle got wet, dirty or damaged. I suspect a big ‘fail’ is what.

6 11 2010
Marshall Barnes

LOL! Tell me about it! That doesn’t even the cover the one I was talking about but yes, I knew about all the ones you mentioned as well. Big fail is right on target. The whole thing cracks me up!

I’ll send you a notice when I get my article done. It’ll be called “Slaying Invisible Dragons: Terminal Flaws of the British Electro-Camouflage Tank”.

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