Newly Discovered Light-Bending Material Could be Used to Create an Invisibility Cloak

New techniques in chemistry and physics will allow scientists to create metamaterials. One of these new materials could be the key to creating an invisibility cloak.
Donovan Alexander
University of Rochester's demonstration of an invisibility-inducing array, 2014.J. Adam Fenster/University of Rochester

The highly coveted invisibility cloak lays at the heart of some of the biggest science fiction and fantasy movies in society. From Star Trek to Harry Potter, who hasn't wanted an invisibility cloak at some point during their childhood or even during adulthood. Today there is some good news for those who want the ability to move around stealthily. A group of researchers has found a way to create a new class of material. Due to the way this material bends light, it could be the foundation for the creation of a fully functional invisibility cloak. 

Your Next Invisibility Cloak

Researchers from Northwestern University are excited about their latest discovery and creation of a negative refraction material. How did they do it?

By combining DNA with gold nanoparticles to create shape-shifting structures that can shift to any desired point on a color spectrum, the researchers were able to create a programmable new material. Using the same process to create computer chips with programmable DNA, researchers are able to control the properties of the new material, allowing them to manipulate the individual particle to fit any purpose. 


This new material, created by both chemists and physicists, can bend light, creating the illusion that it is invisible. This new technique allows researchers to not only bend the light but also bounce the light back. Even more impressively, using the new material, light can be manipulated to respond an infinite amount of ways.

The interest in cloaking devices goes all the way back to the mid-60s but has just moved from science fiction to the forefront of science this past decade. Beyond "the cool" or "wow effect," negative refraction materials have a plethora of uses that range from urban development to aerospace. 

“We can make structures that nobody’s ever even conceived of before; this is a true man-over-nature event.”

The lithography technique used to discover this new material is revolutionary itself. With the idea dating back to 1996, the ability to create metamaterials or materials that do not exist in nature yet is an exciting new field for researchers. As stated by Chad A. Mirkin of the Mirkin Research Group at Northwestern University, “We can make structures that nobody’s ever even conceived of before; this is a true man-over-nature event.”

Though it will be exciting to see what commercial technology emerges out of this new material or the next variations to come. Unfortunately, you are going to have to wait five years or more before you get your hands on an invisibility cloak.  

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