Invisibility cloak developed, though not at Harry Potter levels yet

18 Sep 2015

3D illustration of the cloak, with the red arrows showing how the light reflects off the cloak as if it was reflection off a mirror. Image via Berkeley Lab/

Harry Potter fans rejoice, an invisibility cloak is now a reality.

Alas, this invisibility cloak is not quite at the stage where it would allow you to sneak around Hogwarts undetected, but it is the biggest advance we’ve seen in this area in a while.

Researchers in Berkeley in California have developed the cloak, which can wrap around a 3D object and hide it from detection by reflecting light waves.

As Science Alert explains, the cloak is made up of a thin layer of gold nanoantennae that form a tiled coat just 80 nanometres thick that can currently make microscopic 3D objects ‘disappear’.

However, the scientists involved, who published their research paper about the cloak in Science, are confident that the principles involved could be scaled up to create a cloak capable of hiding macroscopic objects.

“This is the first time a 3D object of arbitrary shape has been cloaked from visible light,” said Xiang Zhang, director of Berkeley Lab’s Materials Sciences Division. “Our ultra-thin cloak now looks like a coat. It is easy to design and implement, and is potentially scalable for hiding macroscopic objects.”

The development of this cloak was made possible thanks to metamaterials, with the surface of the skin cloak meta-engineered to reroute reflected light waves so that the object was rendered invisible to detection by the naked eye.

However, rather than making an object completely disappear, at its current stage the cloak rather makes it appear flat – so invisible from the front, once you keep still – but if the object (or person) moves then the illusion of invisibility will be shattered.

So, while an interesting step in this kind of research, it seems that invisibility cloaks of the likes we see in Harry Potter and sci-fi movies are still some way in the future, unfortunately.

Speaking to The Guardian, Zhang had his own ideas about what a scaled-up version of the invisibility cloak could be used for.

“One application might be in cosmetics,” Zhang said. “You can imagine if someone has a fat belly, like me, and he wants to look nice, he could put this layer on and it will look like a six pack.”

Check out the invisibility cloak in action in the video below.

Invisibility cloak makes 3D objects disappear




Brigid O Gorman is a former sub-editor of Silicon Republic.