Scottish Scientists Work on Real-Life Invisibility Cloak

DISAPPEARING ACT: Harry Potter's invisibility cloak. (Photo: popculturegeek/Flickr.

Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak managed to get him out of several scrapes. Now it looks like a magical cape could enable future real-life adventurers to do the same. STV reports that scientists at the University of St. Andrews have devised a new material that can manipulate light at longer wavelengths. Researchers plan to use the technology to build cloth that can render its wearer invisible.

Experts have long discussed how smart materials could mold light to shield objects from view. Until now, small, light-bending atoms were only able to exist on flat, hard surfaces. But this new material, called Meta-flex, contains flexible metamaterial "membranes" that can move on a non-flat surface. Metamaterials must be tiny to make the short wavelengths of visible light invisible. In addition, the material uses a sort of optical camouflaging technology. Scientists believe that “stacking” the membranes together will provide the basis for a future invisibility cloak.

Dr. Andrea Di Falco is the lead researcher on this project. According to Di Falco, "Metamaterials give us the ultimate handle on manipulating the behavior of light ... It could be possible to use Meta-flex for creating smart fabrics and, in the paper, we show how easy it is to place Meta-flex on disposable contact lenses, showing how flexible super lenses could be used for visual prostheses." Di Falco says metamaterials will give scientists the “ultimate handle” on manipulating light.