Invisibility looms large in the landscape of childhood – in pretend play, comic books, fairy tales, and other fiction. But once you get past superheroes and the twaddle of storybook incantations, invisibility becomes a decidedly adult subject.
Whether it be a condition, a fantasy, or a metaphor, the notion of being unseen makes us consider the complexities of nature and the peculiarity of the human condition.
Then, of course, there is war.
Recently, a Canadian company patented a “Quantum Stealth” material that conceals soldiers – and even tanks, aircraft, and warships – behind a veil of invisibility.
Invisibility Any Time of the Day
The company has purposefully remained tight-lipped about how the invisibility cloak actually works, allowing the press only a few bits of information. Hyperstealth has provided traditional camouflage for armies in Afghanistan, Chile, and Jordan.
Researchers from the Hyperstealth Biotechnology Corporation have developed the material, which they claim can “hide a person, a vehicle, a ship, spacecraft, and buildings.”
“One piece of Quantum Stealth can work in any environment in any season at any time of the day or night, something no other camouflage is capable of,” says the company in a statement.
Endless Military Applications
The new technology bends the light around an object to make it seemingly disappear. The light can be in the visible spectrum or it can be ultraviolet, infrared, or shortwave infrared light.
The “broadband invisibility cloak” is paper-thin and does not require a power source, says Guy Cramer, CEO of Hyperstealth.
The military applications of the technology are apparently endless.
“I’ve modified the material across 13 different versions to provide unique optical properties which can hide a target such as a person, a military vehicle, a fighter jet, a ship, submarine or building invisible across the visible, ultraviolet, infrared, and thermal spectrum,” says Cramer.
A Step Closer to Manufacturing
In a video released by Hyperstealth, researchers attached a small piece of quantum stealth material to the top of a miniature tank. The footage suggests that the technology could make tanks invisible to tank-busting aircraft.
In another video, Cramer demonstrates the material on a handheld riot shield. When held close to the body, the inventor’s distorted torso is still visible behind the shield.
But when he holds the shield out at arm’s length, Cramer vanishes into the background.
The material has been in development for several years, but Hyperstealth’s patent application suggests that it is a step closer to manufacturing.
“Not Necessarily a Good Thing”
Cramer admits to worrying about the technology landing in the wrong hands. “My first choice was to keep quiet about the technology and allow only allied forces access but with the release of the patents, everyone can access how to reproduce it and that’s not necessarily a good thing,” he says.
In military science, the art and practice of concealment is crucial to defeating enemy observation. But then the enemy will undoubtedly use the same strategy against you.
“It didn’t take long for me to anticipate the nightmare scenarios that this material could offer a rogue nation, a terrorist cell or even the criminal element,” Cramer writes in his website.
Can you think of any commercial applications for this technology?
Check out the video below for a quick look at Hyperstealth’s quantum stealth material.