In the Harry Potter series, the boy wizard possesses a valuable artifact: an invisibility cloak that renders him undetectable to enemies, friends and teachers. While a true invisibility cloak is something science is still working on – several research groups around the world have developed prototypes – researchers from Germany and France may have developed a different type of invisibility cloak: one that disguises the wearer’s body heat. Their findings have been reported in the May 10 issue of the Journal Physical Review Letters.
Essentially, the cloak is designed to guide the flow of heat around objects, making them invisible to thermal imaging. This could be useful to hide people or objects from things that use thermal guidance, such as predator drones.
"We manufactured a working cloaking device for heat flow for the first time," Robert Schittny, a physicist at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany, told TechNewsDaily.
The new thermal invisibility cloak is an example of a product that uses metamaterial, a material with special properties based on the way its component elements are arranged. The researchers created the cloak by cutting hexagonal arrays of microscopic holes in a copper plate. They then filled these holes with a thin layer of silicone rubber, according to TechNewsDaily. The finished product can essentially re-route heat around objects. (Other metamaterial cloaks under development re-route light around objects, rendering them at least partially invisible.)
"For the thermal invisibility cloak, both materials have to be arranged smartly," Schittny said. He noted that thus far, the cloak controls heat in only two dimensions, though it would be possible to create 3-D heat cloaks that could entirely encapsulate objects.
So if you’re waiting for your drone-proof cloak to go on sale on Amazon within the next few months, you may be disappointed.
Edited by Alisen Downey
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