Scientists Use Carbon Nanotubes to Create an Underwater Invisibility Cloak

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[Photo: IOP Science]
University of Dallas scientists have found a way to fashion carbon nanotubes, the same material used to improve displays and solar panels, into an invisibility cloak. Scientists discovered that if they heated the tubes underwater they could create a “mirage effect” to make objects completely disappear.

It’s really that simple. All the scientists had to do was setup a sheet of one-molecule-thick carbon nanotubes sheets and apply an extreme amount of heat--we’re talking a maximum of 2,500 degrees Kelvin (2,300 degrees Celsius). No big deal, right?

The carbon nanotube creates a mirage in the same way the beating sun on a hot summer day makes it look like the sky is part of the street. (Mirages are created by light bending in an upward concave arc as hot air rises, so when you see the sky as part of the ground, your eyes are actually sensing an image from the bent photons.)

The carbon nanotubes are essentially recreating the same effect by boiling the water around it and bending light with the resulting water vapor. As you can tell from the video above, the effect is immediate, as if somebody is turning on a light switch, and it looks as eerily perfect as a cloaking Klingon Bird of Prey.

Chances are, these carbon nanotube invisibility cloaks won’t be something you'll wear, because they only work in water, and the whole constantly-applied-heat thing is really not comfortable. However it could be good for cloaking submarines--so long as enemy subs don’t have thermal imaging or heat seeking torpedoes.

[IOP Science via io9]

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