01/26/2012 11:10 am ET Updated Mar 27, 2012

Cloak Of Invisibility To Microwaves Unveiled At University Of Texas

Scientists have developed a new cloak of invisibility, a.k.a. invisibility cloak, and this time a version that cloaks objects from human vision could be close at hand. In the past, we've seen stories about two-dimensional cloaks and cloaks that hide short events in time; but now, researchers at Hogwarts the University of Texas at Austin have developed a free-standing box, such that you can put an object in and it will disappear.

The cloak, described in a new paper in the New Journal of Physics, hides objects from microwave radiation, but co-author Professor Andrea Alu is confident that "in principle, this technique could be used to cloak [visible] light."

What will they do with their creation?

The first application they're looking into doesn't involve spies or aliens. The researchers, including Alu, want to cloak the tips of microscopes so that they don't get in the way of precise measurements.

The device works because of its use of a metamaterial—man-made materials engineered to have properties not found in natural substances—that doesn't reflect light the way ordinary objects do. According to InnovationNewsDaily,

Alu's cloak works by reflecting electromagnetic waves in a way that cancels out the waves that the object reflects. "It's kind of an interference between the two...The combination of the two becomes invisible."

The paper is optimistic for the development of even more practical cloaks: the authors say "We believe that our results pave the way to realistic, practical applications of 3D stand-alone cloaks for radar evasion and non-invasive radio frequency probing."