May 03, 2007

Computer analysis of metamaterial invisibility

A unique computer model designed by a mathematician at the University of Liverpool has shown that it is possible to make objects, such as aeroplanes and submarines, appear invisible at close range.

Scientists predict that metamaterials could be of use in military technology, such as in the construction of fighter jets and submarines, but it will be some years before invisibility cloaks can be developed for human beings.

Using this new computer model we can prove that light can bend around an object under a cloak and is not diffracted by the object. This happens because the metamaterial that makes up the cloak stretches the metrics of space, in a similar way to what heavy planets and stars do for the metrics of space-time in Einstein's general relativity theory.

"In order for the cloaking device to work in the first place light has to separate into two or more waves resulting in a new wave pattern. Within this pattern we get light and dark regions which are needed in order for an object to appear invisible.

"Until now, however, it was not clear whether photons -- particles that make up all forms of light -- can split and form new waves when the light source is close to the object. If we use ray optic techniques -- where light travels in beams - photons break down at close range and the object does not appear invisible. If we study light as it travels in waves however, invisibility is maintained."

Scientists predict that invisibility will be possible for objects of any shape and size within the next decade. The research findings are published in Optic Letters.

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