Although the cloak is only microscopic in size, the principles behind the technology should enable it to be scaled-up to conceal macroscopic items as well. Working with brick-like blocks of gold nanoantennas, the Berkeley researchers "fashioned a "skin" cloak barely 80 nanometers in thickness.

It was wrapped around a 3D object about the size of a few biological cells and arbitrarily shaped with multiple bumps and dents. The surface of the skin cloak was meta-engineered to reroute reflected light waves so that the object was rendered invisible to optical detection when the cloak is activated.

"This is the first time a 3D object of arbitrary shape has been cloaked from visible light," said Xiang Zhang, director of Berkeley Lab's Materials Sciences Division and a world authority on metamaterials.

"Our ultra-thin cloak now looks like a coat. It is easy to design and implement, and is potentially scalable for hiding macroscopic objects," he said in a paper that appeared in the journal Science.It is the scattering of light - be it visible, infrared or X-ray - from its interaction with matter that enables us to detect and observe objects.

In the Berkeley study, when red light struck an arbitrarily-shaped 3D sample object in area that was conformally wrapped in the gold nanoantenna skin cloak, the light reflected off the surface of the skin cloak was identical to light reflected off a flat mirror, making the object underneath it invisible even by phase-sensitive detection.

The cloak can be turned "on" or "off" simply by switching the polarisation of the nanoantennas."A phase shift provided by each individual nanoantenna fully restores both the wave front and the phase of the scattered light so that the object remains perfectly hidden," explained co-lead author Zi Jing Wong.


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