Scientists get closer to creating ‘invisibility’

PARIS, August 10, 2008 (AFP) – The age-old fantasy of rendering objects invisible took a sharp step toward reality Sunday when scientists said they had created a material that can bend visible light in three dimensions. “An observer looking at the cloaked object would then see light from behind it, making it seem to disappear.”

For now the vanishing act takes place on a nanoscale, measured in billionths of a metre.

But there is no fundamental reason why the same principles cannot be scaled up one day to make invisibility cloaks big enough to hide a person, a tank or even a tanker, the scientists say.

The groundbreaking experiments, led by Xiang Zhang at the University of California at Berkeley and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, were reported simultaneously in the British journal Nature and the US-based journal Science.

Recent advances have created other so-called metamaterials, artificially engineered structures with optical properties that bend light in unnatural ways.

But previous attempts had two severe limitations.

One was that they only worked on the microwave range of the light spectrum, bending wavelengths much too long to be visible to the human eye.

The second was