Novel material gives nod to ‘invisibility cloak’

PARIS, November 4, 2010 (AFP) – Physicists in Scotland said on Thursday they had devised a flexible material that manipulates light, marking a small step towards “invisibility” clothing beloved of science fiction writers and Harry Potter. The work is in the domain of metamaterials, or compounds with a surface that interacts with light thanks to a tiny, nano-level structure.

As a result, light flows around the object — rather like water that bends around a rock in a stream — as opposed to being absorbed by it.

Metamaterials are still in the prototype stage and enact their apparent shielding effect in specific wavelengths, or colours, of the light spectrum.

They have traditionally been made from rigid substances, not flexible materials, and this is a limiter on their potential use.

The research team, led by Andrea di Falco of the University of St. Andrews, made the novel material using an elaborate technique based on a commercially available polymer and a silicon support.

The invention, dubbed Metaflex, interacts with light at wavelengths of around 620 nanometres, according to the research, published in Britain’s New Journal of Physics.

Visible light, for humans, has wavelengths ranging from 400 nanometres,