Airdate: Jan 10, 2019
Scientist: Dr Quinn Spadola
Cloak of Invisibility
Sometimes there's a fine line between science and fiction.
Nano-InvisibilitySometimes there's a fine line between science and fiction. It may just be a matter of time, and scale. I'm Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.Spadola: When people talk about nanotechnology they like to use fun examples to capture the imagination, especially future possible technologies. And one of the favorites is an invisibility cloak.Dr. Quinn Spadola is education coordinator for Nanotechnology at Georgia Tech, which is part of the National Nanotechnology Coordinated Infrastructure.Spadola: Researchers have actually created this material, and they can tune it to control how light reflects off of it. So you can lay it over bumps. They're at the millimeter scale right now, so certainly something you can feel if you ran your fingers over it. They're big enough for us to see, but they're still pretty small. They lay this material over it and control the material to make the light reflect back off of the surface, like it's completely smooth and flat. So it's actually hiding and covering up these bumps underneath. So to us it looks like there's nothing there, and it's just the way that the light bounces back is what's disguising what's underneath.We're not seeing through what the material is hiding. We're just making it so those bumps are invisible. It's camouflaging it at this point more so than letting us look right through it and not see it.So that's early invisibility cloaking technology, and as they get better at creating these materials, they might be able to control the way light bends around us so that we look like we're not even there.Will there ever be a nanotech-inspired invisibility cloak big enough to hide you or me? Well, it's probably more likely than a flying broomstick. Pulse of the Planet is made possible in part by the Center for Earth and Environmental Nanotechnology and the National Science Foundation.