Scientists Are One Step Closer to an Invisibility Cloak, But Don't Get Out Your Wands Yet

By Carli Velocci on at

Since the Harry Potter books first hit bookshelves, the world has been getting little pieces of J.K. Rowling’s universe. Universal Studios allows you to explore Diagon Alley, you can make your own butterbeer at home, and maybe, in your lifetime, you can experience a working invisibility cloak.

Invisibility is one of science’s greatest White Whales, but researchers at Queen Mary University of London are one step closer to creating a material that can make objects disappear.

What’s more, the researchers worked with UK industry to demonstrate the cloaking device, which doesn’t exactly make something invisible. Rather, it uses a nanocomposite medium to make raised objects appear flat. It has seven distinct layers with electric properties, hiding an object that would’ve caused surface waves to be scattered.

The results, which were published Friday in Scientific Reports, is ensuring that us nerds might achieve invisibility at some point, but it also has the potential for wider applications in engineering, optics, and acoustics. It could be applied to anything relating to electromagnetic surface waves, according to researchers.

“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,” said lead author Dr. Luigi La Spada.

Reading through the study doesn’t indicate what the cloak is made from (presumably so that they can possibly patent it later), but it does state that the manufacturing process is “inexpensive and highly reproducible.”

Of course, we can wait for this study to be reproduced before we start lining up for our own invisibility cloaks—or cloaks that can make us look flat. [EurekAlert via Queen Mary University of London]