SCIENCE
05/08/2013 03:59 pm ET Updated May 08, 2013

3D Printed Invisibility Cloak Produced By Duke Engineers

Duke University

Got a 3D printer handy? Then you could soon be the proud owner of an invisibility cloak of sorts.

Although the printed item may not be anywhere near as magical as the fictional robe seen in the "Harry Potter" films, researchers at Duke University have devised a simple method to 3D print an invisibility cloak at home.

Dr. Yaroslav Urzhumov, an assistant research professor at Duke University, explains that the key to the cloak's invisibility is in its metamaterial layer, an artificially engineered material component that can interact with and control electromagnetic waves.

"It allows the waves that hit the structure to travel around it, and then re-radiates it back," Urzhumov explained in an email to The Huffington Post. "So you can look at it from any angle ... and still see no evidence that the cloaked structure is there."

As Medical Daily notes, Duke researchers first successfully tested the invisibility cloak in 2006. At the time, the metamaterial became "invisible" in only two dimensions under microwave beams of light.

Since then, researchers have improved upon the design, removing the shadow effect present in earlier models and magnifying the technology so it can cover larger objects. Urzhumov said the size of typical 3D-printing chambers limit the cloak to an 8-inch diameter, but larger cloaks could conceivably be created by printing separate 8-inch blocks and connecting them together.

Those interested in wielding the power of invisibility, however, shouldn't get too excited -- not just yet, anyway.

While the design's enhancements are significant, the invisibility cloak still lacks the ability to make an object or person "completely invisible" to the naked eye, Urzhumov said.

"This cloaking device makes an object 'invisible' for microwaves with certain frequencies," he explained to HuffPost. "In the visible light, and even other microwave bands, this particular structure has no cloaking effect."

Researchers may be a long way off from a design that could cloak the wearer at multiple wavelengths simultaneously across the visible spectrum. Urzhumov said there are some scientific questions that must be resolved in order to achieve this. Nevertheless, an active invisibility cloak is not completely outside the realm of possibility; perhaps one day we'll be able to disappear just like Harry Potter.

HuffPost

BEFORE YOU GO

PHOTO GALLERY
Creative Uses For 3D Printing

CONVERSATIONS