Scientists from London start-up, Vollebak, have announced plans to make an invisibility cloak in reality.
The team is collaborating with the University of Manchester on a Thermal Camouflage Jacket that’s made to make the human body invisible to infrared cameras.
The team says it will be commercially available in five to 10 years.
‘Designed to eventually make the human body invisible to infrared cameras, it’s a computer-programmable jacket that brings us one step closer to turning the invisibility cloak from science fiction into reality,’ Vollebak said.
‘For the last 3 years we’ve been bringing together the fields of physics, optical materials, electronic control systems, textiles, and engineering, to create a single piece of clothing that someone can actually wear, that is also an advanced optical device,’ the team explained.
Their Thermal Camouflage Jacket prototype has 42 graphene patches, each made up of over 100 layers of pure graphene.
Gold and copper wires run to each patch and can be controlled to apply different voltages to them.
The voltage forces ions between the graphene layers – and the more ions pushed, the less thermal radiation is emitted and the colder it looks.
For example, the team wrote code that allowed them to play Tetris in infrared.
Instead of seeing heat radiating from a human body as you typically do, infrared cameras could only see the pattern of the popular computer game.
‘The key detail is that every single patch can be programmed individually to emit a different level of thermal radiation,’ Vollebak explained.
‘And this is the way it can blend into its surroundings and appear invisible to infrared cameras.’
‘With enough patches and enough power, a person could simply blend into a forest. Or a plane could blend into a runway,’ they said.
‘Graphene is a highly tuneable material, which means that applying energy to it changes how it appears on both the infrared spectrum and the visible spectrum,’ they explained.
‘So theoretically at least, changing the charge density of the graphene will change the color we see. And once you’ve got one device that controls all wavelengths, that’s when the possibility of building an invisibility cloak starts to become very real.’
The cost and few practicalities still need to be ironed out.