Harry Potter fans rejoice: we don’t have magic wands yet, but we do have an invisibility cloak. We have a group of researchers from Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany to thank for this accomplishment. There were already systems developed by researchers that can bend the light around an object, but the range was not impressive.
How the Invisible Cloak Makes Objects Disappear
For an object to appear truly invisible, it must somehow divert the light around it, forcing it to travel a longer distance. To achieve this, researchers decided to make their cloak out of light-scattering material. This way, the cloak slows down the light and picks the speed back up as it passes. This still isn’t quite enough to make a cloak that is able to turn anyone wearing it invisible, but with a certain method, we can disguise specific objects.
You take the object you are using and place it in a metal cylinder coated with acrylic paint. Science Daily explains that the tube is embedded within “a block of polydimethylsiloxane, a commonly used organic polymer, doped with titanium dioxide nanoparticles that make it scatter light.” That sounds quite complicated, so in more simple terms: The object is placed in a cylinder coated with a paint that diffusely reflects light and is embedded with a type of silicone. So, when the light-scattering cloak is placed on top of the light-scattering cylinder, it can appear invisible.
Limitations of Harry Potter’s Invisibility Cloak Science has yet to Address
You can touch the cloak. You can carry it from one classroom to the next. But it is still not quite Harry Potter’s cloak. The room would have to be dim, and you would need a fairly strong flashlight shining on the object to perform the demonstration.
In the Harry Potter world, the cloak is apparently made from the hair of a magical creature, called Demiguise, which can turn invisible. It can also be made from a simple travelling cloak with an enchantment. Finally, it was said that a man asked Death for a gift that would allow him to hide from Death, so he was given the invisibility cloak. Unfortunately, as far as we know, the magical creature does not exist, we cannot enchant a normal cloak, and Death is not a person. Therefore, it will prove to be quite difficult to create a fictional object for real world use.
The researchers at KIT, however, have proven that this feat is, indeed, possible. The next step would be to make the invisibility cloak able to work with objects that are not specially designed to scatter light and to work outside dim rooms. Still, the future does look quite exciting. Maybe next year we can levitate objects with a wand.
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