TECH

Invisibility Device Made From 'Off The Shelf' Parts Actually Works

29/09/2014 11:39 BST | Updated 29/09/2014 11:59 BST

Invisibility is one of the most infuriating 'innovations' we regularly write about.

While the idea is obviously attractive, the reality of current tech means that such 'breakthroughs' are usually something to do with radio waves... and ultimately really boring.

But this might be different - or at least comes with a really cool picture attached to the story.

university of rochester

The University of Rochester has developed a new lens which can look around objects, without obscuring the background behind it.

Using four 'off the shelf' lenses, the team built a multidirectional 'perfect paraxial' cloak which can hide a nearby object from view.

The device is able to achieve 3D, continuous invisibility for visible light.

"There've been many high tech approaches to cloaking and the basic idea behind these is to take light and have it pass around something as if it isn't there, often using high-tech or exotic materials," said John Howell, a professor of physics at the University of Rochester.

The team says that the device could be scaled up to hide larger objects - though there are obvious limitations since the viewer still has to be looking roughly directly at the lens to mis the object.

It's still a breakthrough though - the paper in the journal Optics Express says that the lens works for angles up to 15 degrees, and could have major uses - such as allowing a surgeon to operate on a patient while looking through his own hand.

Check out more detail over at Phys.org.