Invisibility cloak nears as new meta-skin developed

7 Mar 2016

Scientists are one step closer to developing invisibility cloaks, it seems, after US researchers developed a new flexible, stretchable and tunable ‘meta-skin’.

The science behind stealth mechanisms for aircraft is relatively modern, and advancing all the time. This latest meta-skin, so, is just the next step on the road towards invisibility.

The project set out to prove that electromagnetic waves – “perhaps even the shorter wavelengths of visible light” – can be adequately suppressed with flexible, tunable, liquid-metal technologies.

Iowa State University researchers came up with rows of split ring resonators filled with galinstan, embedded inside layers of silicone sheets.

“It is believed that the present meta-skin technology will find many applications in electromagnetic frequency tuning, shielding and scattering suppression,” according to the paper published in Scientific Reports.

Meta Skin

This flexible, stretchable and tunable meta-skin can trap radar waves and cloak objects from detection, image via Liang Dong/Iowa State University

This skin is named after metamaterials, composites that have properties not found in nature and that can manipulate electromagnetic waves. By stretching and manipulating the polymer, it can be “tuned” to reduce the reflection of a wide range of radar frequencies.

Tests showed that in the 8-10ghtz range, radar suppression was about 75pc. When objects are wrapped in the meta-skin, the radar waves are suppressed in all incident directions and observation angles.

Lead author Liang Dong said the team is now looking to bring down the size of the components in the skin, which would mean it could be work with higher-frequency electromagnetic waves “such as visible or infrared light”.

“While that would require advanced nanomanufacturing technologies and appropriate structural modifications, we think this study proves the concept of frequency tuning and broadening, and multidirectional wave suppression with skin-type metamaterials,” added Dong.

Main image via Shutterstock

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic