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Useful cloaking device is one step closer to reality

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Sci/Tech

Last October saw a major breakthrough in an area of research that, until very recently, was squarely in the realm of science fiction—cloaking technology.

An article published in Science by a team of researchers at Duke University discussed how they had created a device that was able to cloak simple objects from microwave radiation.

While this was a stunning announcement, it wasn't what many Trekkies would think of off the top of their head. The Duke team used metamaterials—synthetic materials whose physical structure interacts with electromagnetic (EM) waves in ways that natural materials do not—to essentially guide microwave radiation at a given frequency around a cavity that held the object. If one looked at it, they would still clearly see the entire setup as microwaves have a much longer wavelength than visible light. Another shortcoming was that while the cloak kept the material invisible from outside viewing, it did nothing to keep EM radiation originating from inside the cavity from getting out. This means that anything emitting EM radiation—heat from a person's body, RF signals from a cell phone/radio, or even a simple flashlight—would be instantly detectable. Now, some new mathematics suggests a way one can get around this issue.

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