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(Pocket-lint) - Science fiction was once the only place cloaking devices existed, on a Klingon ship in Star Trek or as a literal cloak in Harry Potter. Now science has managed to make them a reality.

While we can't yet don an item of clothing that will make us entirely invisible, there are more options. Scientists have come up with all sorts of complicated cloaking devices, presumably with plenty of military funding. Some are more simple and can even be made at home for cheap.

We've rounded up the best cloaking discoveries science has on offer.

Lens cloaking

Scientists at the University of Rochester have come up with a lens array system that's able to make anything in its path invisible to the human eye.

The cloaking system uses lenses which bend light rather than allowing it to travel in a straight line. This means that anything placeed in between the lenses can no longer be seen. And the best part is you can make it yourself for about £60.

A real world example given for its use was a truck driver who could cloak his rear storage unit so he could see directly behind him. Unlike cloaking devices in films, where a character or vehicle becomes invisible, this system relies on lenses so it's more for use seeing "around" objects.

Audio cloak

Hiding from sight isn't the only type of cloaking that's been made a reality. Scientists at Duke University have managed to created an acoustic cloak to make sound appear non-existent.

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Using 3D printed metamaterials scientists have managed to create a 3D acoustic invisibility cloak that interacts with sound waves in a way that makes it appear as if nothing is there.

The layers are able to slow down sound before the waves bounce off so it appears the sound is coming off a flat surface. Unlike other efforts this is the first time a silence cloak has worked no matter where the sound is coming from.


The use of metamaterials, or unnatural elements, means it's possible to let wavelengths hit an object, pass around it, and come out the other side. So in the case of light it would appear like there is no object since no light is bouncing off it to your eyes.

At the moment scientists at Duke University have been able to make microwaves invisible. But since the metamaterials need to be the same size as the wavelengths it's proving tougher for the smaller light waves. 

Scientists at Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory have managed to come up with a super-thin cloak which bends light around micro objects. This was able to hide a few biological cells but its creators say could be scaled up and used on larger objects.

Spacetime cloak

This is where science gets a bit intense. Effectively the spacetime cloak, proposed by Imperial College London, is able to hide things in time.

The best way to describe this is a thief robbing a safe and being caught on camera. This effectively deletes the part of the tape where he's filmed and stiches it back together. But rather than seeing a jump in time where the deletion was made this technique stretches the segments to hide the jump.

This technique was actually created by manipulating the speed of light, varying the refractive index of the material the light passes through. The result, discovered at Cornell University, was hiding a beam of light in a spacetime hole for 15 trillionths of a second.

Projection cloaking

A rather straight forward sounding method uses projection to hide objects. If a person were to wear a reflective item of clothing and stand in front of a wall while a projector displayed the wall on them, they would appear invisible.

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This technique only works if the person is totally still and viewed from the correct angle. But American architectural firm GDS Architects has designed a 1,500ft skyscraper called the Infinity Tower that may get built in South Korea's Seoul. This will use bands of cameras and LEDs on the glass to allow the building to be hidden.

This will likely only work from certain viewpoints but should be very impressive nonetheless. Construction has been granted so here's hoping it gets built.

READ: This new cloaking device will make anything invisible, you can build it for £60

Writing by Luke Edwards. Originally published on 29 September 2014.