The only provable element of the idea to date being the base physics, but even solid designs employing such meta-materials in invisibility coatings could be far too expensive to be worthwhile.
As battlefield technologies get ever more sophisticated, the stuff of 70s science fiction is becoming fact, the latest breakthrough being the development, by British defence company BAE Systems, of an invisibility cloak technology, effectively hiding vehicles from view in the infra-red spectrum. it would seem that invisibility on demand is imminent.
According to Army research office boffin Dr richard Hammond, military scientists are no more than two or three years away, using so-called meta materials, from being capable of manufacturing devices allowing unprecedented extreme control over the flow of light, theoretically also able to deflect radar and other sensors as well.
A full-spectrum invisibility coating that is both practical and affordable for both personnel and equipment is still impractical as yet, the only provable element of the idea to date being the base physics, but even solid designs employing such meta-materials in invisibility coatings could be far too expensive to be worthwhile.
During a Tuesday Pentagon teleconference last week, Hammond spoke of other possible applications for the meta materials, including the construction of lenses capable of zooming to micron levels, making microscopically small things detectable using what would basically be binoculars, focussing the tiniest amounts of ambient light and using it as a power source.
This patented system has been dubbed Adaptiv, uings an hexagonal pixels matrix able to rapidly adapt their temperature, helping. on-board cameras to sweep the area, picking up background scenery and displaying infra-red signatures, allowing even moving tanks effective invisibility in the infra-red spectrum, hiding vehicles from heat-seeking missiles, drones and heat-sensitive goggles.
BAE Systems engineers commented that previous attempts at similar cloaking devices were inefficient because of excessive power demand or fragile construction , but the latest can provide useful armour protection using relatively low levels of power, especially when vehicles are in stealth mode, pixel panels coming in different sizes for invisibility at greater ranges.
Resolution needed to hide tanks is high, but disguising much larger objects at longer distances should in theory be much easier. BAE systems amazing technology will be on view at the UK Defence and Security Equipment International exhibition in September, and hopes for similar success in other parts of the electro-magnetic spectrum over the coming years.