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Flexible metamaterial could make your next invisibility cloak rather more comfortable

Tim Stevens
11.09.10
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Metamaterials have a lot of potential future applications, but only one of them really gets our geeky senses tingling: invisibility cloaks. Previous theoretical examples we've seen were built upon rigid silicon substrates, meaning they'd be about as comfortable to wear as a motherboard jacket with ISA sleeves. But, a new material at the University of St. Andrews has been created that offers similar light-bending properties in a flexible package, crafted by the formation of a membrane upon a release layer, etching microscopic gold bars upon it, and then removing the release layer to have just the blingy membrane left behind. It can be tuned to bend various wavelengths, with the team having success working at wavelengths as short as 620nm -- you know, red. If there's one problem it's the size of the thing, with current prototypes measuring just 5 x 8mm, but it is said to be "scalable to industrial levels," meaning next-year's Harry Potter costume could be the best one ever.

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