the real science behind the invisible cloak

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A year or so ago, we sat among church friends and listened as Nader Engheta discussed his work in a field known as metamaterials, a discipline in which he is an acknowledged world leader.  Maybe it was the glass of wine, but I thought I actually understood Nader that evening—thought I had climbed inside his world of physics and nanotechnology and gleaned something about the creation of the first actual invisible cloak.  Just like Harry Potter, I thought.  Relying on literature, once again, to see me through.

But today Nader, who is a professor at my very own University of Pennsylvania, is featured in a news story that reveals to me that, well, I understood nothing, and will never understand anything, about what this brilliant man is doing.

All I know is this:  I'm proud to know him and happy to see him featured today.  I excerpt three paragraphs from the Evan Lerner story, with the hope that you will find your way to the whole:

Just as a wave’s shape determines its properties, the shape of objects that a wave interacts with can further influence those properties. By designing shapes with features that are smaller than a given wavelength, metamaterials research could potentially develop “super lenses,” which have unprecedented magnification abilities, and “cloaking devices,” which can bend waves around an object, rendering it effectively invisible.

Although it’s been just a little more than a decade since the word “metamaterials” was coined, Engheta is now taking the research to the next level by establishing an even newer discipline he calls “metatronics.” Engheta and his research team recently built the first physical metatronic circuit, which manipulates light waves much the same way an electrical circuit in a computer or phone manipulates electrons.  

As if cloaking devices weren’t futuristic enough, metatronics could also lead to the creation of objects that do math when you shine light on them. “What if we could make a material where we put a function in on one end, and get its derivative or integral out on the other? We’re working on that,” says Engheta.


Serena said...

this is over my head

Melissa Sarno said...

You had me at invisbility cloak. Then I read the Q & A and it hurt my brain. I need a nap. Wake me up when the cloaking devices are ready.

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