3D Printer: Create Your Own Invisibility Cloak

By Pierre Dumont , May 07, 2013 12:01 PM EDT

That invisibility cloak from Harry Potter may be more real than you think: an invisibility cloaking device is now accessible through 3D printing.

The research comes from an assistant research professor in computer engineering at Duke's Pratt School of Engineering, Yaroslav Urzhumov. The invisibility cloaking device 3D-printed by the research team is not an actual robe but rather an object that deflects microwaves to help hide objects. It is formed in the shape of a disk and when objects are placed at its center, microwave beams cannot detect the object.

"The design of the cloak eliminates the 'shadow' that would be cast, and suppresses the scattering from the object that would be expected," Urzhumov said in a statement. "In effect, the bright, highly reflective object, like a metal cylinder, is made invisible. The microwaves are carefully guided by a thin dielectric shell and then re-radiated back into free space on the shadow side of the cloak."

Though the current invisibility cloaking device can't deflect wavelengths higher than microwaves, the researchers feel that the technology will lead to more advanced invisibility uses such as optical cloaking, whereby an object is made invisible to the human eye.

"We believe this approach is a way towards optical cloaking, including visible and infrared," Urzhumov said. "And nanotechnology is available to make these cloaks from transparent polymers or glass. The properties of transparent polymers and glasses are not that different from what we have in our polymer at microwave frequencies."

The invisibility cloaking device takes between three and seven hours to print. According to Urzhumov, it can be made with an "affordable" 3D printer, meaning one that costs a couple thousand dollars.

The research is published in the journal Optics Letters.

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