Compiled by Photonics Spectra staff
LONDON – If you could pull off the ultimate bank heist without getting caught, would
you try it? The perfect crime is possible – in principle – according
to scientists at Imperial College London, who have described a new type of invisibility
cloak that hides not just objects, but events as well.
The researchers explained their theory by describing how a thief
could use an “event cloak” to steal money from a bank safe without surveillance
cameras catching it. To do so, the burglar would have to somehow split all the light
approaching the safe into two parts: “before” and “after,”
with the “before” part sped up and the “after” part slowed
down. This would create a brief period of darkness in which the burglar could enter
the safe, steal the money, retreat and leave the safe door closed before exiting
with the loot.
Once the thief was safely outside, the process of speeding up
and slowing down the light would be reversed, so the scene would appear to have
To bring this new cloak to fruition, suitable materials would
have to be developed to manipulate the light – to speed it up or slow it down
– the researchers said. They added that a set of parallel, artificially structured
metamaterial layers would be required, each containing an array of tiny metallic
elements that could be controlled to dynamically adjust the speed of light passing
Although a high-performance, macroscopic-size, fully functional
space-time cloak has not yet been developed, one could be within the next few years,
the scientists concluded.
They also noted that a more likely application for the new full-size
event cloak would be to control the flow of signals in an optical routing system,
where one may need to process simultaneous uninterrupted signals.