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Introductory Summary of Invisibility, Metamaterials and Transformative
active cloak, illusion, invisible, materials, metamaterials, physics, transformation optics

Illustration of the idea of a "Pendry cloak". Light rays illuminating the cloak are bent around
the central region and allowed to continue on their original path. Figure from BBC News.
An introductory overview of invisibility cloaking work and transformative optics
In 1988, a mathematician named Nachman provided a rigorous proof that invisible objects do
not exist: if one shines enough light on an object from enough directions, it will be detectable.
Nachman's theorem, though rigorous, had two big "loopholes" in it that were overlooked by
researchers of the time but were caught by the 2006 researchers. Leonhardt correctly noted
that Nachman's theorem only precluded perfectly invisible objects; a cloak that is 99.9%
invisible, however, might very well be possible. Pendry, Schurig and Smith observed that
Nachman's theorem only applies to isotropic materials, in which light travels at the same
speed regardless of its direction and polarization. Anisotropic materials, such as calcite
crystals, behave differently depending on the nature of the light traveling through them, and
give rise to phenomena such as double refraction.

The Pendry, Schurig and Smith cloak is an anisotropic cloak, and not subject to Nachman's
impossibility theorem. In 2007, other researchers showed through more rigorous calculations
that this design is, in principle, perfectly invisible.
A few points are worth making about these early cloaks.
1. They require the fabrication of materials with a wide range of refractive indices and spatial
variations that are not found in nature. The construction of a cloak that would work for
visible light therefore requires the use of so-called metamaterials, materials that derive their
properties from modification of their structure on the scale of a billionth of a meter. As it

stands, nobody really knows how to make such materials reliably and efficiently.
2. These cloaks work only for a single wavelength (color) of light, or a small range of colors.
Note: There is work to expand the rangse. Looking at the image of the Pendry cloak, light
that intersects the middle of the cloak has to travel farther than light that hits the edge of the
cloak. If the cloak is designed to make all of the light "synch up" when it reemerges at one
wavelength, it will in general not be synched at another wavelength; there is no good solution
to this problem as yet either.
3. The behavior of light inside these cloaks is in many ways analogous to the behavior of
light in a gravitational field under Einstein's general theory of relativity. A new subfield of
optics known as transformation optics has been developed that applies the mathematical tools
of general relativity to design new cloaks and other unusual optical devices.
So what other kind of optical devices have been imagined? It seems that it is possible to make
light do almost anything these days -- at least theoretically

In June of 2009, however, Alu and Engheta proposed a technique for cloaking a sensor that
allows the sensor to detect, but not to be seen. Idea behind "cloaking a sensor". The light
scattered by the cloak is out of phase with the light scattered by the sensor, resulting in a
partial cancellation of the total field scattered by the object.
The existence of metamaterial invisibility devices implies that we can also construct a cloak
that makes one object look like a completely different object. This is potentially more useful
than a true invisibility cloak: an imperfectly invisible object would likely draw much more
attention than an imperfectly imaged mundane object. A group of researchers in Hong Kong
in 2009 had the idea of making "optical illusion" using transformation optics and
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Novel negative-index metamaterial bends light 'wrong'

April 23, 2010
California Institute of Technology
Scientists have engineered a type of artificial optical material -- a
metamaterial -- with a particular three-dimensional structure such that
light exhibits a negative index of refraction upon entering the material. In
other words, this material bends light in the "wrong" direction from what
normally would be expected, irrespective of the angle of the approaching
light. The uniquely versatile material could be used for more efficient light
collection in solar cells.
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Arrays of coupled plasmonic coaxial waveguides offer a new approach by which to realize
negative-index metamaterials that are remarkably insensitive to angle of incidence and
polarization in the visible range.
Credit: Caltech/Stanley Burgos
A group of scientists led by researchers from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech)
has engineered a type of artificial optical material -- a metamaterial -- with a particular threedimensional structure such that light exhibits a negative index of refraction upon entering the
material. In other words, this material bends light in the "wrong" direction from what
normally would be expected, irrespective of the angle of the approaching light.
This new type of negative-index metamaterial (NIM), described in an advance online
publication in the journal Nature Materials, is simpler than previous NIMs -- requiring only a
single functional layer -- and yet more versatile, in that it can handle light with any
polarization over a broad range of incident angles. And it can do all of this in the blue part of
the visible spectrum, making it "the first negative index metamaterial to operate at visible
frequencies," says graduate student Stanley Burgos, a researcher at the Light-Material
Interactions in Energy Conversion Energy Frontier Research Center at Caltech and the
paper's first author.
"By engineering a metamaterial with such properties, we are opening the door to such
unusual -- but potentially useful -- phenomena as superlensing (high-resolution imaging past
the diffraction limit), invisibility cloaking, and the synthesis of materials index-matched to
air, for potential enhancement of light collection in solar cells," says Harry Atwater, Howard
Hughes Professor and professor of applied physics and materials science, director of
Caltech's Resnick Institute, founding member of the Kavli Nanoscience Institute, and leader
of the research team
What makes this NIM unique, says Burgos, is its engineering. "The source of the negativeindex response is fundamentally different from that of previous NIM designs," he explains.
Those previous efforts used multiple layers of "resonant elements" to refract the light in this
unusual way, while this version is composed of a single layer of silver permeated with
"coupled plasmonic waveguide elements."
Surface plasmons are light waves coupled to waves of electrons at the interface between a
metal and a dielectric (a non-conducting material like air). Plasmonic waveguide elements
route these coupled waves through the material. Not only is this material more feasible to
fabricate than those previously used, Burgos says, it also allows for simple "tuning" of the
negative-index response; by changing the materials used, or the geometry of the waveguide,
the NIM can be tuned to respond to a different wavelength of light coming from nearly any
angle with any polarization. "By carefully engineering the coupling between such waveguide
elements, it was possible to develop a material with a nearly isotopic refractive index tuned to
operate at visible frequencies."
This sort of functional flexibility is critical if the material is to be used in a wide variety of
ways, says Atwater. "For practical applications, it is very important for a material's response
to be insensitive to both incidence angle and polarization," he says. "Take eyeglasses, for
example. In order for them to properly focus light reflected off an object on the back of your

eye, they must be able to accept and focus light coming from a broad range of angles,
independent of polarization. Said another way, their response must be nearly isotropic. Our
metamaterial has the same capabilities in terms of its response to incident light."
This means the new metamaterial is particularly well suited to use in solar cells, Atwater
adds. "The fact that our NIM design is tunable means we could potentially tune its index
response to better match the solar spectrum, allowing for the development of broadband
wide-angle metamaterials that could enhance light collection in solar cells," he explains.
"And the fact that the metamaterial has a wide-angle response is important because it means
that it can 'accept' light from a broad range of angles. In the case of solar cells, this means
more light collection and less reflected or 'wasted' light."
"This work stands out because, through careful engineering, greater simplicity has been
achieved," says Ares Rosakis, chair of the Division of Engineering and Applied Science at
Caltech and Theodore von Krmn Professor of Aeronautics and Mechanical Engineering.
Their work was supported by the Energy Frontier Research Centers program of the Office of
Science of the Department of Energy, the National Science Foundation, the Nederlandse
Organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek, and "NanoNed," a nanotechnology program
funded by the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs.