WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF
Invisibility is an illusion, a magic trick – literally. As metamaterials improve you can expect this once science fiction-like technology to be perfected.
Happy New Year! Today science fiction is becoming science fact – we have working flying cars, holograms, laser weapons, memory downloading, editing, erasure, streaming, transfer, and uploading, molecular assemblers, tractor beams and telepathic communication devices, all the way through to prototype deflector shields, and teleporters, and even theoretical warp drives so it must be the year 2020, and for those of you struggling to find the perfect gift for next Christmas I’d recommend putting this new one in your shopping list… just don’t expect it to be cheap though.
Researchers and militaries around the world have been on a quest to create invisibility cloaks that can hide people and objects in plain sight for decades now, and with the continuous development of new metamaterials, materials that have properties not found naturally in nature, they’ve been getting closer and closer to realising their lofty goals. Now though Canadian camouflage manufacturer Hyperstealth Biotechnology has applied for patents on a new material that they’ve called “Quantum Stealth” that is, to all intents and purposes the world’s first believable invisibility cloak – even if the company still does have some work to do on perfecting it.
The “inexpensive and paper-thin” material works by bending light around a target to either alter its position or make it vanish altogether leaving only the background visible, and the company says it can “obscure the positions of heavy artillery, ground troops or even entire buildings from certain viewpoints.”
In a video released by Hyperstealth a small piece of material is attached to the top of a miniature tank, meaning it is unable to be seen from above, and they show it off by hiding a range of things, from people to jets – as you can see for yourself.
In another, inventor and Hyperstealth CEO Guy Cramer demonstrates the material when covering a handheld riot shield. When held close to the body Kramer’s distorted torso is still visible, but when held out at arm’s length it vanishes into the background. While still in development, with obvious distortion when looking at the material, Quantum Stealth has also been demonstrated to hide targets in the infrared, ultraviolet and thermal spectrum’s too.
“One piece of Quantum Stealth can work in any environment in any season at any time of the day or night, something no other camouflage is capable of,” said Cramer.
The material has been in development for several years now but the patent application by Hyperstealth, which has provided traditional camouflage for armies in Afghanistan, Chile and Jordan, now means that it’s a step closer to being mass manufactured for the world’s militaries and Harry Potter fans.
Hyperstealth are obviously not the only company looking at bringing invisibility cloaking from science-fiction into the real world. Late last year declassified papers from the US military revealed research including invisibility cloaks, and in 2016, British troops took part in a field-trial of similar high-tech camouflage material called Vatec, developed by MIT.
As for now though if you were one of those parents that paid northwards of £80 for a Harry Potter invisibility cloak for your children for Christmas like some of the parents I know then soon you might be able to get your hands on the real deal…