London: A new material designed by British scientists could help create a real-life Harry Potter-style `invisibility cloak`.The material, called "Metaflex" may in future provide a way of manufacturing fabrics that manipulate light.
Metamaterials have already been developed that bend and channel light to render objects invisible at longer wavelengths, says the New Journal of Physics.
Visible light poses a greater challenge because its short wavelength means the metamaterial atoms have to be very small, reports the Daily Mail.
So far such small light-bending atoms have only been produced on flat, hard surfaces unsuitable for use in clothing.
But scientists at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland, believe they have overcome this problem.
They have produced flexible metamaterial "membranes" using a new technique that frees the meta-atoms from the hard surface they are constructed on.
Metaflex can operate at wavelengths of around 620 nanometres, within the visible light region.
Stacking the membranes together could produce a flexible `smart fabric` that may provide the basis of an invisibility cloak, the scientists believe.
Other applications could include superlenses that are far more efficient than conventional lenses.
Andrea Di Falco, who led the study at the university, said: "Metamaterials give us the ultimate handle on manipulating the behaviour of light."
First Published: Thursday, November 04, 2010, 20:48