There has been a lot of excitement about the possibility of creating a Harry Potter-like cloak that can make people or things appear to vanish. However, that goal seemed like it may be impossible to reach within the next decade…until Dr. Baile Zhang came up with a new, simple and promising solution. Zhang unveiled his own “invisibility cloak” technology at the prestigious TED2013 conference in Long Beach, California on Monday.
Most other previously developed invisibility cloaks were made with fabricated materials in the lab that have patterns working to bend light waves. The problem with this technology is that the labs could only make a small amount of the light-bending materials. Making things even more complicated, most known examples of cloaking material only work using microwaves and other invisible forms of light.
While Dr. Zhang, a professor at the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, was reading about these exotic materials, he suddenly remembered a high school physics classroom lecture. The exhibit showed students how calcite bends light in odd ways. That led Zhang to come up with a much easier way to make a large invisibility cloak. He decided to try gluing two pieces of calcite together.
Though Dr Zhang's cloaking device looks like more of a box than an actual cloak, the result is just the same. It bends light around objects, making them disappear. He demonstrated how his calcite cloak could hide the section of items underneath it.
Unfortunately, Zhang’s cloaking technique has serious limitations. For example, the cloak works only in an exotic medium known as laser oil. While the laser oil that was used for the initial demonstration worked perfectly, at the moment water or air will not work with the cloak. However, it does suggest there is a possible way to make practical invisibility cloaks on a mass level in the future.
Last year, Dr Zhang was listed in the MIT Technology Review's '35 Innovators Under 35' list. The doctor’s cloaking device is not the first invisibility cloak, which was initially made famous in multiple science fiction films. Other designs are currently being worked on in places like London's Imperial College, Duke University and the University of Texas.