The invisibility cloak that the fictional Harry Potter used to move around Hogwarts undetected may have promising applications in real life particularly when used in the battlefield.
The potentials for such a stealth technology is now being tested as British Troops are reported to test a Harry-Potter style invisibility cloaks that allows them to hide from their enemies on the battlefield.
In field trials conducted in the U.S, soldiers from the 3rd Battalion The Rifles tried using a camouflage sheeting known as Vatec, which allows them to hide even from infrared and heat-searching devices.
During trials conducted at Fort Benning in Georgia, the snipers used the material, which can be molded into shapes to match the terrains, to come-up with hideaways during mock battles. The participants reported that they could not be seen even when other soldiers who acted as the enemy tried to search for them using the latest infrared trackers and heat-seeking devices.
The material, which was originally developed by researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and University of Illinois, attempts to replicate the special ability of cephalopods such as the octopus and squid to blend in with the environment to evade their predators.
These creatures' skin has pigment-rich cells called chromatophores that change color in response to external factors such as the presence of a predator. Researchers have developed a process that mimics this ability with a technology known as visual appearance modulation.
The material they developed has one side that contains tiny light-sensitive cells that are sensitive to the colors of the environment. Once colors are detected, electrical signals trigger the top layer to imitate those colors using heat-sensitive dyes, a process that takes place in as fast as two to three seconds.
The color-changing technology is estimated to be put in use to camouflage military vehicles on the battlefields and allow soldiers to instantly adapt to the surrounding within five years.
Despite the advancements, some physicists are skeptical about the ability of invisibility cloaks to hide objects from all observers.
Writing in a paper published in the Physical Review A, Jad Halimeh, from the Ludwig Maximilian University, and Robert Thompson, from the University of Otag, said that real invisibility cloaks would remain in the realms of fiction.
"Although our results may be disappointing for would-be wizards, understanding the limitations of cloaking devices is actually important in real life," Thompson said.
"New technologies are beginning to emerge from cloaking research, and we're looking for effects that could either compromise the functionality of these technologies, or which could be exploited for some new practical purpose in the future."