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'Squid skin' invisibility cloaks being developed

Invisibility cloaks may be about to make the transition from science fiction to science-fact, following research by Rice University, Texas.

The project, which initially looked to create artificial squid skin through camouflaging metamaterials, is one step closer to reality, as a result of breakthrough colour-display technology.

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Director of the university's Laboratory for Nanophotonics, Naomi Halas, explained how the project had been inspired by the natural camouflage exhibited by the marine creatures.

"Our goal is to learn from these amazing animals so that we could create new materials with the same kind of distributed light-sensing and processing abilities that they appear to have in their skins."

The technology uses grids of nanoscopic aluminium rods to create vivid colours and polarise light, which could initially be used to build sharper, longer lasting screens. The pixels created are roughly 40 times smaller than those in LCD displays, and do not fade after sustained light exposure.

However, when combined with light-sensing technology, the possibilities extend beyond the home entertainment industry. In fact, it's not difficult to imagine the technology being applied to combat uniforms or vehicles in order to decrease their visibility.

"We hope to eventually bring all of these technologies together to create a new material that can sense light in full colour and react with full-colour camouflage displays," Halas said.

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While it is unlikely that invisibility cloaks are going to be available any time soon, the latest technological breakthrough suggests that the idea might not be as far-fetched as it once seemed.