‘Invisibility cloak’ metamaterials make their way into products
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Metamaterials first captured the public imagination in 2006, when John Pendry of Imperial College published two papers showing how to create a Harry Potter-style invisibility cloak using the specially engineered materials. David Smith, professor of electrical and computer engineering at Duke University, who was a co-author of the research, went on to produce the first functioning cloak — although it made objects invisible to microwaves rather than to visible light. Now, the same technology is starting to be used in a number of commercial products. Because certain metamaterials can control electromagnetic waves, they can also be used to improve the performance of satellite antennas and sensors. These commercial uses may be less headline-grabbing than an invisibility shield, but they show that metamaterials are coming out of the lab and into everyday use.