Optical technology could render cars, aircraft or your mother-in-law invisible

So you thought only Romulans had a cloaking device?  Hardly. Purdue researchers using nanotechnology this week have taken a step toward creating an optical cloaking device that could make objects invisible. The Purdue University engineers, following mathematical guidelines devised in 2006 by physicists in the United Kingdom, have created a theoretical design that uses an array of tiny needles radiating outward from a central spoke. The design, which resembles a round hairbrush, would bend light around the object being cloaked. Background objects would be visible but not the object surrounded by the cylindrical array of nano-needles, said Vladimir Shalaev, Purdue's Robert and Anne Burnett Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering in a release. The design does, however, have a major limitation: It works only for any single wavelength, and not for the entire frequency range of the visible spectrum, Shalaev said. "But this is a first design step toward creating an optical cloaking device that might work for all wavelengths of visible light," he said. "How to create a design that works for all colors of visible light at the same time will be a big technical challenge, but we believe it's possible," he said. "It is clearly doable. In principle, this cloak could be arbitrarily large, as large as a person or an aircraft."Two requirements are needed to render an object invisible: Light must not reflect off of the object, and the light must bend around the object so that people would see only the background and not the cloaked object itself, according to researchers.Research findings are detailed in a paper appearing this month in the journal Nature Photonics.

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