Futuristic clothing brand Vollebak has just presented a prototype of a rudimentary thermal invisibility jacket developed in collaboration with scientists. If it only works on the infrared spectrum for the moment, it could one day become a real invisibility cloak.
An invisibility cloak would be of little use if it didn’t also camouflage its wearer in the infrared spectrum. A simple thermal camera would be enough to detect anyone trying to hide. It is on the basis of this observation that researchers have decided to concentrate their efforts first on the thermal radiation of the human body. The garment thus produced is a proof of concept and the result of a collaboration between the National Graphene Institute from the University of Manchester in the UK and Vollebak, a futuristic clothing brand.
Rather than a cape, the researchers opted for a jacket that requires fewer materials. It is covered with 42 squares composed of more than a hundred layers of graphene. Each square can be controlled as a pixel via gold and copper wires, and programmed using a microcontroller integrated into the jacket. They thus manage to modify its thermal radiation without changing its temperature.
Demonstration of the thermal invisibility jacket, where each square can be controlled independently to mask thermal radiation from the wearer. English subtitles only. © Vollebak
By applying an electric voltage to the squares, ions are pushed between the layers of graphene thanks to an ionic liquid. The more ions, the less heat radiation the square emits and the colder it appears. Since each square can be programmed individually, by increasing the number of squares and reducing their size, it would be possible to blend into the background, at least for a thermal camera. The quality of invisibility cloaks could therefore one day be judged by their resolution…
The jacket is theoretically not limited to the infrared spectrum. According to the researchers, with enough energy, it is also possible to change the color of graphene in the visible spectrum. This technology therefore has the potential to become a real invisibility cloak one day, even if it will not be for tomorrow.