Thursday, January 15, 2009

Next Up: Photon Torpedos

Researchers have taken another step toward matching the Klingons.

"Cloaking technology could be used to make obstacles that impede communications signals 'disappear,'" said David Smith of Duke University in North Carolina, who worked on the study published in the journal Science.

It is made from a so-called metamaterial -- an engineered, exotic substance with properties not seen in nature. Metamaterials can be used to form a variety of "cloaking" structures that can bend electromagnetic waves such as light around an object, making it appear invisible.

The first applications are likely to be more mundane.

Smith said the goal was not to make something visible disappear. Cloaking, he said, can occur anywhere on the electromagnetic spectrum......"You might have two or more antennas trying to 'see' or receive signals, one being blocked by the other," he said. "You could imagine adding cloaks that would make one antenna invisible to the next, so that they no longer interfered."

But down the road.....

Smith said the notion of a device that makes objects invisible to people is still a distant concept, but not impossible. "This latest structure does show clearly there is a potential for cloaking -- in the science fiction sense -- to become science fact at some point," he said.