Scientists working to develop real-life invisibility cloak

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Sep 21, 2015, 12:06 PM EDT

It might seem like the stuff of pure sci-fi (or magic, for Harry Potter fans), but a team of researchers on the West Coast has developed an ultra-thin material that could potentially make you (essentially) invisible. Welcome to the future, folks.

Scientists at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley, have developed what is essentially a “cloak” made of a metamaterial built from microscopic gold nanoantennas. Mental Floss notes that, at just 80 nanometers thick, these tubes distort light waves coming at the object so they bounce off it (sort of like a mirror). The effect works to make 3D objects appear flat, and in the process it obscures said objects from view. Put simply, it’s supposed to make them invisible.

At the moment, they’ve only been able to cover small things, but the team believes the concept can be scaled. Here’s what the study’s lead author, Penn State University electrical engineering professor Xingjie Ni, told Inforum about the project:

"The fact that we can make a curved surface appear flat also means that we can make it look like anything else. We also can make a flat surface appear curved."

As far as practical applications are concerned, the team shied away from the obvious (i.e. military) and instead noted the tech could be implemented in everyday life — specifically in the beauty market. Just think: What better way to hide those extra pounds than to literally make them disappear? Or perhaps even use a tiny piece of the cloth to hide a pimple or blemish. 

What do you think? How could we best use an invisibility cloth (please avoid any recommendation involving a girls’ locker room)?

(Via Science, Mental Floss, Inforun, The Guardian)