3-D Print Your Own Invisibility Cloak, And More!

Ask someone about their plans to retire and you will likely get a garbled response.

But ask that same person what the best superpower is and you would get a swift monologue.

There’s a market for such fiction. Just check the biggest box-office hits of the past decade. Since 2000, nearly every masked avenger has graced the silver screen.

But today, I want you to forget fiction.

One technology is on its way toward making a superpower real in the future. Even the U.S. military has plans to give this ability to soldiers. And you can learn how in the not-so-distant future, it will possible to obtain it for yourself.

Not to worry — it does not involve becoming a guinea pig in some radioactive experiment.

After reading this through, you will realize how powerful this technology can be for individuals and investors. The next time your friends ask about how you’ll fund your retirement, you’ll tell them about a revolutionary technology that’s enabling superhuman capabilities, and a new generation of wealth creation.

Eyes will go wide and jaws will drop.

So what’s the superpower?

Invisibility — an invisibility cloak, to be precise.

Yeah, right, you may be thinking. I can’t even microwave my own popcorn right. How could I possibly make my own invisibility cloak?

Well, you can. And it doesn’t even cost much. State-of-the-art physics and some electrical engineering have made it simple.

All the hardest work has been done for you, thanks to years of research, trial and error.

Our story goes back to the year 2006. Duke University professor David R. Smith and colleagues made a prototype for a real, fully functional invisibility cloak. Science magazine selected Smith’s research as one of the top 10 scientific breakthroughs of the year. And he was named one of Scientific American’s top 50 researchers.

But let’s manage our expectations… there is functional invisibility and optical invisibility.

Functional invisibility has to do with being picked up by machines like radar. Optical invisibility is where you can’t see something with the naked eye — Harry Potter style.

To prove the invisibility concept, the Duke University researchers started with the former, functional invisibility. They did so because functional invisibility uses microwaves, and microwaves use relatively large wavelengths. Larger wavelengths are easier to manipulate in experiments. So here’s what they did…

They got a rapid-prototyping machine (what people now call a 3-D printer). Then they printed a cloak made out of copper and fiberglass. But it wasn’t a cloak in the sense that you could wear it wrapped around you like a cape.

This cloak was a hard object. But the copper and fiberglass in the cloak were very finely woven together in a special way, harnessing their electromagnetic properties more completely.

Then the researchers placed a metal cylinder inside this cloak to see if radar would pick it up. They fired microwave beams at it. What happened?

Much like water flowing around a rock in a stream, the microwave beams bent around the front of the cloak and met back up on the other side of it. The metal cylinder inside the cloak went stealth… as if it weren’t even there!

You could use a larger version of this cloak to make entire planes or buildings invisible to radar. No wonder the U.S. Army Research Office supported it.

That was in 2006. Fast-forward to today…

Those Duke University researchers have been hard at work…

The newest version of the invisibility cloak uses something called metamaterials.

Metamaterials are carefully woven fabrics of different elements… much like the copper and fiberglass that was used in 2006. Nowadays, however, they can use more kinds of materials, at smaller scales, in more complex shapes that enhance the desired electromagnetic properties.

Think of metamaterials as if they were letters in the alphabet. Together, these materials form objects (or words). Those objects can exploit electromagnetic waves (or sentences).

The researchers are now closing in on a way to bend light waves in the same way the 2006 cloak bent microwaves around itself in order to go “stealth”.


 Your future invisibility cloak

But that means they need to make the cloak with “fabric” at the Nano scale –an extremely small level. The main obstacle is, as you might have guessed, manufacturing. The best hope of achieving the invisibility cloak is 3-D printing technology. And we’re moving in the right direction.

For at least 30 years, 3-D printers have only gotten more advanced. Just like personal computers, 3-D printers will become more powerful and operable at a smaller scale.

But guess how far we’ve come since 2006?

Yaroslav Urzhumov, an assistant research professor in electrical and computer engineering at Duke’s Pratt School of Engineering, picked up where professor Smith left off.

Recently, he said that producing a cloak in the 2006 fashion is inexpensive and easy.

He even proved it by making a small cloak at Duke. It looks like a Frisbee disc made out of Swiss cheese. Just like the 2006 cloak, the newer version also deflects microwave beams.

“The design of the cloak eliminates the ‘shadow’ that would be cast and suppresses the scattering from the object that would be expected,” said Urzhumov.
He goes on to say:

“In effect, the bright, highly reflective object, like a metal cylinder, is made invisible. The microwaves are carefully guided by a thin dielectric shell and then re-radiated back into free space on the shadow side of the cloak.

“We believe this approach is a way toward optical cloaking, including visible and infrared.”

The invisibility cloak that makes you undetectable to radar was the height of metamaterial capability back in 2006. Now, according to the same researchers, you can print that cloak using an off-the-shelf 3-D printer in your living room…

That gives you a good idea of how long an optical invisibility cloak could follow suit.

And you will be able to make it from home. Not a bad Christmas present for the kids, eh?

What once was the sole domain of science labs and military bases will have the letters DIY slapped on it.

This is but one example of how the Click, Print, Anything Revolution will change the world.


Josh Grasmick
for Tomorrow in Review

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