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Teflon Improves Invisibility Cloaks

Credit: Li-Yi Hsu/UC San Diego.An improved cloaking design could be used to make military drones invisible. Electrical engineers at the University of California, San Diego have designed a cloaking device that is thinner than any previous design and is more inconspicuous because it does not alter the brightness of light around concealed objects. Just like a magic trick, the invisibility cloak works by manipulating the way people perceive what they see. The technology makes objects invisible by scattering the electromagnetic waves off an object.

The engineers created the extremely thin cloaking device by creating a metamaterial made of ceramics and Teflon, which are both non-conductive materials called dielectrics. They used Computer-Aided Design software with electromagnetic simulation to design and optimize the a thin Teflon sheet embedded with many small, cylindrical ceramic particles. “By changing the height of each dielectric particle, we were able to control the reflection of light at each point on the cloak,” explained researcher Li-Yi Hsu. “Our computer simulations show how our cloaking device would behave in reality. We were able to demonstrate that a thin cloak designed with cylinder-shaped dielectric particles can help us significantly reduce the object’s shadow.”

The Teflon has a low refractive index, and the ceramic’s refractive index is higher, which allows light to disperse through the sheet without being absorbed. Previous iterations of the technology required many layers of material covering the object, but this new thin design is better at hiding the three-dimensionality and shadow of the item that is being concealed.

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The new design also improves similar cloaking materials because it is not “lossy,” a characteristic that makes the cloak lose the intensity of the light it reflects. “Imagine if you saw a sharp drop in brightness around the hidden object, it would be an obvious telltale. This is what happens when you use a lossy cloaking device,” said researcher Boubacar Kanté. Many cloaks are made with metal, which absorbs light, but the new cloak is made of non-conductive materials called dielectrics, which do not absorb light.

If engineers are able to perfect the cloak, it could be used to make objects invisible, which would be especially useful for the military. The researchers say that the material can be used to control the way light is reflected, so they anticipate that it can also be used to increase optical communication signal speed and to collect solar energy.

The study is published in the journal Progress In Electromagnetics Research.

Source: UC San Diego | HDIAC | Image by Li-Yi Hsu/UC San Diego

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