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Thursday, November 10, 2011

Scientist creates thermal 'invisibility cloak'

By Amanda Guerra

updated 11/9/2011 10:42:20 PM ET 2011-11-10T03:42:20

It no longer belongs to the wizarding world of Harry Potter: A scientist at the University of Texas at Dallas has created his own invisibility cloak.

"We really can hide objects. ... We can switch for a short moment and make it disappear," said Ali Aliev, a physicist at UTD.

His "cloak" right now is small — several strands of what look like thread.

..But sure enough, in a video of his experiment, you see the strands — and then, a second later, they disappear.

The threadlike material is made of carbon nanotubes, Aliev said. He discovered that the material becomes so hot when heated up that it can bend light around an object, making it look as if it has disappeared. (The phenomenon is similar to the way desert heat can create a mirage.)

Right now, the technology is limited to Aliev's lab, but in time the material could easily hide large objects, such as military tankers, he said.

Scientists in the United Kingdom are working on similar technology.

There, inventors have created plates that can stick to an object such as a tank. The plates can heat up or cool down very quickly, matching the temperature outside. When the scene is viewed with a thermal infrared imaging system — for example, night vision goggles — the object seems to disappear.

Experts said both technologies are years away from being on the market. Still, what once seemed like science fiction could now be science fact, Aliev said.

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