The cloaking device – the Romulan technology that vexed Capt. Kirk and the Enterprise crew – may not be centuries away after all.
Researchers at the University of Texas at Dallas have created an “invisibility cloak” that clicks on and off like a light switch. It works best underwater.
The scientists figured that if they could mimic the mirage effect, they could make objects behind the phenomenon “disappear.” Mirages fool your brain into thinking the undulating pool of blue ahead of you in the desert is water instead of what it really is – a reflection of blue sky caused by light rays refracted by heat.
The key was finding the right material to conduct heat quickly to surrounding areas in order to distort light. They settled on one-molecule-thick sheets of carbon nanotubes, which are strong as steel and excellent conductors.
“By transferring that heat to its surrounding areas, a steep temperature gradient is generated, which causes the light rays to bend away from the object concealed behind the device,” explains Mark Brown for Wired.co.uk.