Printable metamaterials mean invisibility cloaks you can wear

Metamaterials are things that are able to bend light into knots to such an extent that they can be used to render objects effectively invisible. So far this only works with objects so small that you can't see them anyway, but a new printing process can pump out sheets of metamaterial large enough for you to wear.

Until now, most metamaterials have been painstakingly etched out of metal sheets by electron beams, and the biggest pieces able to screw with visible light have topped out at about 100 micrometers or so, about the size of a human hair. A group from the University of Illinois has figured out a way to create a "stamp" of sorts that can repeatedly create pieces of metamaterial several inches on a size, and it should be easy to scale that up into square feet. With this much metamaterial, the first applications could include infrared cloaking devices and optical superlenses.

What's a superlens? I'm glad you asked! A superlens is a lens that can view features smaller than the diffraction limit of light. That is to say, you can't use a normal optical microscope to look at stuff that's smaller than the wavelength of light that it's reflecting, which puts the lower limit for what we can see at 400 nanometers or so. With a superlens, you can bypass that limit, and start looking at objects as small as just a couple nanometers, which is like molecule-sized. Crazy!


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