Cloaking device

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Simulation of how a cloaking device would work

Cloaking devices are advanced stealth technologies still in development that will cause objects, such as spaceships or individuals, to be partially or wholly invisible to parts of the electromagnetic (EM) spectrum. Fictional cloaking devices have been used as plot devices in various media for many years, but developments in scientific research show that real-world cloaking devices can obscure objects from at least one wavelength of EM emissions. Scientists already use artificial materials called metamaterials to bend light around an object.[1]


Conceptual origins

Cloaking devices were first introduced and used by the Romulans in the original Star Trek episode "Balance of Terror", where it was used as an analog for a submarine diving (the episode was partly inspired by the film Run Silent, Run Deep). During a later episode, "The Enterprise Incident", the term "cloaking device" was first coined by writer D.C. Fontana.

Cloaking devices have also been used in many other science-fiction settings and games, including Doctor Who, Star Wars, Stargate, Predator, Halo: Combat Evolved, Metal Gear Solid, and StarCraft. When cloaking devices are used in games, they typically come with a drawback for balance, such as requiring a limited energy source to power them, or failing when the player initiates an attack while cloaked.

Scientific experimentation

An operational, non-fictional cloaking device might be an extension of the basic technologies used by stealth aircraft, such as radar-absorbing dark paint, optical camouflage, cooling the outer surface to minimize electromagnetic emissions (usually infrared), or other techniques to minimize other EM emissions, and to minimize particle emissions from the object. The use of certain devices to jam and confuse remote sensing devices would greatly aid in this process, but are more properly referred to as "active camouflage". Alternatively, metamaterials provide the theoretical possibility of making electromagnetic radiation appear to pass freely through the 'cloaked' object.

Metamaterial research

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