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Invisibility technologies: Just beginning to see the possibilities

August 11th, 2014 / By: / My Take

The topic of invisibility technology is a little irresistible. Who isn’t fascinated with the prospect of making things—or people—disappear? In fact, there have been real strides in “cloaking,” as it is called, although it does not involve a Harry Potter-esque fabric cloak.

But that’s not the only type of invisibility being researched or developed. Scientists have made strides in the development of acoustic, tactile and thermal invisibility technologies, which will also be discussed in future articles on this site.

Researchers at Duke University are “hiding objects from sound waves,” according to one of the researchers, Steven Cummer, by constructing a specific geometry of plastic sheets with holes in them. It is quite a bit more complicated than it sounds. In June of this year, the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) in Germany announced the development of an “unfeelability” invisibility cloak, the first mechanical device that when placed over an object, the object cannot be felt at all. And the National University of Singapore Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering has developed a thermal illusion device that can control thermal camouflage and invisibility.

Part of the challenge in discussing this topic is just getting details for the latest information. New technologies are often carefully guarded. Additionally, scientists are not prone to speculation about the materials that might be used in a technology’s application. That’s not what they do.

However, as my article “Invisibility technologies: where are textiles?” discusses, camouflage techniques are under constant development and are now making full use of digital printing, smart textiles and other technologies.

I think it’s just a matter of time before the variety of “invisibility” technologies find practical application. It will be interesting to follow how, exactly, textiles may be used.