Scientists might be a step — a teeny tiny step — closer to developing that Harry Potter-style invisibility cloak of your dreams. Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, created a thin metamaterial that can conform to objects and render them invisible in certain wavelengths of light.

For now, this cloak is exceedingly small. But the device, described in the journal Science, offers a proof of concept that could potentially be scaled up in the future.

Previous invisibility cloaks tried to redirect the light around the object they were hiding — but this required lots of material, making the cloaks far bulkier than the object they were trying to conceal.

For this new device, scientists scattered the incoming light using a very thin metamaterial — a material whose physical structure, rather than its chemical composition, allows it to manipulate light.

Usually, when light bounces off a three-dimensional object, the light is scattered and the wavefront gets distorted, which is what allows us to see the object’s angles and curves. The new and improved cloak is covered with nanoantennas made of tiny gold blocks of different sizes that can counteract that distortion, making it seem to an observer like the light is coming from a flat surface.

The uses are limitless, researchers said, from clothing to turning a two-dimensional image into a three-dimensional one (say hello to holographic TV) to making one object look like another, such as disguising fighter jets as freighters.

Los Angeles Times