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Scientists have developed a flexible, stretchable 'invisibility cloak' that hides objects from radar

You might not be able to attend Hogwarts, but technology is bringing us closer to magic every day. Thanks to new research from Iowa State University, we may soon be able to take the notion of invisibility cloaks out of the realm of fiction and into our reality. Engineers from the midwest university have developed an innovative “flexible, stretchable, and tunable ‘meta-skin’ that uses rows of small, liquid-metal devices to cloak an object from the sharp eyes of radar.” Thanks to this material’s ability to manipulate electromagnetic waves, it’s able to “reduce the reflection of a wide range of radar frequencies.”

So what does this mean, practically? Sadly, this material wouldn’t hide you from plain view — you’d still be visible to the naked eye. But interestingly enough, the meta-skin would render you invisible from certain types of cameras. This would be hugely useful in security operations, where hiding certain objects (or even people) from surveillance could be key.

radar cloak

Even more exciting, a second totally separate approach towards invisibility is also being engineered by researchers at UC Berkeley. Rather than using the “electric split ring resonators” the folks from Iowa have employed, the California team features “arrays of golden nano-antennas which manipulate phases of light to redirect the light in such a way so that its effectively invisible to our retinas from any angle,” PSFK reports.

“This is the first time a 3D object of arbitrary shape has been cloaked from visible light,” UC Berkeley team leader Xiang Zhang told PSFK. “Our ultra-thin cloak now looks like a coat. It is easy to design and implement, and is potentially scalable for hiding macroscopic objects.”

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And while the two teams have different thought processes behind their innovations, both agree that the possible use cases for real invisibility cloaks are all but boundless. “It is believed that the present meta-skin technology will find many applications in electromagnetic frequency tuning, shielding and scattering suppression,” the University of Iowa engineers wrote in their paper.

We’re still Muggles, but we may be able to adopt some pretty magical technology in the near future.