The concept of invisibility is a long-time staple of speculative fiction, from high fantasy works like Harry Potter to near future cyberpunk like Ghost in the Shell. Finally, science is taking massive steps forward to making the dream a reality.
Scientists at the St. Andrews University have developed a flexible metamaterial that can literally bend light. While metamaterials aren't new, previous attempts at photon-manipulating plastics could only work on longer wavelengths, like infrared. The new polymer, dubbed Metaflex, is the first metamaterial that functions on visible light.
Dr. Andrea Di Falco, who authored the experiment, explained that the metamaterial's substructures need to be increasingly small to handle the smaller wavelengths that our eyes can see. With this in mind, she and her colleagues fabricated the metamaterial out of a single layer of polymer. Its structures are so small, they're actually measured in nanometers.
It's still a far cry from giving us full blown stealth suits; Di Falco and her team are still trying to figure out how to bend the light in a controlled fashion. For now, they expect that their breakthrough will at least trickle down into the field of optics, giving us the next generation of lenses. But seriously, who cares about super-thin eyewear? We want our invisible camouflage, now.