Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The long road to invisibility

Light Fantastic: Flirting With Invisibility

Last October, scientists at Duke demonstrated a working cloaking device, hiding whatever was placed inside, although it worked only for microwaves.

...with metamaterials, scientists can now also create indexes of refraction from 0 to 1. In the Duke cloaking device, the index actually varies smoothly from 0, at the inside surface of the cylinder, to 1, at the outside surface. That causes the path of light to curve not just at the boundaries, but also as it passes through the metamaterial.

Metamaterials first took center stage in a scientific spat a few years ago over a startling claim that the index of refraction could be not just less than 1, but also negative, less than 0. Light entering such a material would take a sharp turn, almost as if it had bounced off an invisible mirror as it crossed the boundary.
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