Laser makes solid ‘disappear’

A laser-like beam of light shone at a unique solid makes the material appear to disappear, according to a new study.

The effect occurs at infrared light wavelengths, so it can’t be seen with the human eye. “[But] if it worked in the visible light with molecules that make up your hand, when the laser hit your hand, your hand would go transparent,” says Chris Phillips, from Imperial College London.

“And then if you turned the laser up a little more, the scene you’d see through your hand would become brighter,” as the effect amplifies light in the beam, he says.

The method could one day work in visible light and lead to new technologies that help see through rubble to search for victims at a disaster site or observe internal body parts obscured by bone.

“Seeing through walls and bodies is exciting and possible but a long way off,” said the researcher. “We have proved the principle. For wider applications we’d need a rather cleverer laser than the one we’ve got at the moment. But this is a technological barrier, rather than a fundamental one.”


In the meantime, we’ll keep on marvelling at the invisible coat. Susumu Tachi‘s next project will be to develop the technology to allow people to see through walls. “My short-term goal would be, for example, to make a room that has no outside windows appear to have a view to the outside, then the wall would appear to be invisible.”

Check also Cambridge Consultants‘s new type of radar technology that can “see through walls” and “Radar Scope,” a handheld device that, when held up to a wall, allow users to detect movements as small as breathing.

Via ABC and BBC News. Press release.

Related: Light-transmitting concrete, Transparent Hotel Room project.