Magazine article Foreign Policy

Let There Be Bendable Light

Magazine article Foreign Policy

Let There Be Bendable Light

Article excerpt

For the past 60 some years, engineers have been working to develop what are known as "metamaterials"--artificially structured substances with properties not available or easily found in nature. Such materials can be engineered for incredible strength, durability, or other attributes; they could be used, for example, to reinforce buildings against earthquakes.

But there's also the potential that they could be employed for more sinister purposes. Some metamaterials with exotic electromagnetic properties can cause light to bend away from them, meaning that an object fashioned from the materials can be made to look invisible. This could be a huge asset for anyone working in security or espionage--for instance, if someone wanted to hide valuable artifacts in a building.

A team at Harvard University recently found that it's possible to take this stuff of science Action a step further and manipulate the degree of an object's visibility. As detailed this summer in Nature, the scientists changed how light interacted with a certain metamaterial by etching a microscopic grating pattern onto its surface. …

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