3D Printed Invisibility Cloak: How Does It Work? [VIDEO]
Creating an invisibility cloak is now as easy as firing up the old 3D printer.
Researchers at Duke University say they've successfully 3D printed an invisibility cloak, and that it's really not that difficult. They say anyone with even a consumer-grade 3D printer- which will run you about $2,500- can make their own cloak at home.
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"I would argue that essentially anyone who can spend a couple thousand dollars on a non-industry grade 3-D printer can literally make a plastic cloak overnight," said Yaroslav Urzhumov, assistant research professor in electrical and computer engineering at Duke's Pratt School of Engineering.
The invisibility cloak is shaped like a Frisbee with a hole in the center. Swiss cheese-like holes appear all over, strategically placed to reflect microwave beams aimed at the object, making it appear invisible.
"The design of the cloak eliminates the 'shadow' that would be cast, and suppresses the scattering from the object that would be expected," said Urzhumov. "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."
But that bit about the microwaves is the rub: the invisibility cloak only works with microwave beams. That means you can't just throw an object into the middle of the cloak, and watch it disappear. But Urzhumov says that technology is coming.
"We believe this approach is a way towards optical cloaking, including visible and infrared," Urzhumov said.
In 2006, the Duke researchers unveiled a more limited version of the invisibility cloak technology. Back then, the researchers were only able to make 2D objects invisible, but now they've conquered 3D objects too. And in 2006, the researchers were unable to hide the object's shadow, which they can now do. But the fact that, just seven years later, this technology can in theory be recreated in your garage with a 3D printer, is perhaps the most interesting development.
The researchers' full findings can be read in the Optics Letters.
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