Researchers Invent Invisibility Cloak

Image credit: Purdue University

Researchers at Purdue University have developed an invisibility cloak that uses time to make things disappear.

"A lot of people have seen the invisibility cloak in the Harry Potter movies," said Purdue professor Andrew M. Weiner. "In scientific research terms that is a spatial cloak. What we've done involves time cloaking."

Joseph Lukens, a Ph.D candidate in electrical engineering, co-published his findings in the June issue of Nature, published online on Wednesday. Lukens isn't a Harry Potter fan, but appreciates all the attention his work has received.

"This has been a lot bigger than I expected. It's great, I'm just trying to soak it all in," Lukens said.

Lukens' method creates moments in time where things can occur undetected.

"Time cloaking is relatively new. It's based on the idea that there are places in time where if something were to happen it wouldn't be picked up, so no one can tell that it has occurred," Lukens explained.

If this seems hard to grasp, he offers this explanation:

"Say you have a light beam," Lukens said, "speed up the front half and slow down the back half, and you create a place where the light beam splits apart. There is no light intensity there."

According to Lukens, when data is sent it makes a record in a light beam. "If you send a piece of data, but the light beam isn't there, you can't make the record. So if someone depicts the absence of light they will think no data was sent."

For now, Lukens is able to only cloak small electrical signals.

"But in the future it would be interesting to see if we can create cloaks that use both space and time. These space-time cloaks would allow us to create entire spaces where things can go undetected. For example, we could cloak an entire room and whatever is in it," Lukens said.

"As a dreamer I hope that can be a possibility, but I'm not making any promises," Lukens added.