When you think about cloaking devices all you can imagine is a recurring theme taken from a SF movie, but they could become reality sooner than any of us could suppose. Researchers at the University of Cambridge are trying to create the basis for the first cloaking technology by using lasers to thread chains of nanoparticles together.
The concept is basically simple: nanoparticles have some "one of a kind" properties which make the light reflect different than usual or even completely absorbed. Since our visual perception of the surrounding environment is directly related to the way the light bounces off things, if you could cover something with light absorbing material, that object would thus become invisible. The biggest obstacle was joining the nanoparticles together.
The researchers from Cambridge use unfocused lasers to create billions of miniscule "light needles" to line up strings of nanoparticles. These "threads" can later be stacked together and form pieces of material that will be visible with the naked eye. In order for the nanoparticles to arrange properly and form the metamaterial, the scientist use spacers called cucurbiturils that keep that particles apart at just the right distance.
If successful, this project will allow us to take advantage of the unique properties that nanoparticles possess on a larger scale. Besides its obvious "invisibility" perk, this material could also be used in other ways to enhance sensors, scientific equipment, etc.