John Tolley, February 11, 2018
There are many ways to attain invisibility. Most difficultly, you can be "the boy who lived" and inherit the cloak of invisibility, passed down through your family for generations from the original owner, the legendary Ignotus Peverell. One can also take a normal travelling cloak and, if skilled enough, imbue it with a strong bedazzling hex. Or, at great expense, you can purchase the more common variety, one which has been woven with the hair of the illusive Demiguise, a peaceful, yet wily, simian with a keen ability to avoid detection.
Of course, these strategies only work in the wizarding world dreamed up by the inimitable J.K. Rowling. So, what are we to do here on Earth-Prime? (And yes, we did just mix Harry Potter and DC Comics reference. We're cool like that.)
Northwestern University may have the answer.
A new technique for constructing metamaterials, created by researchers at the university, is a breakthrough in particle architecture, says chemistry professor Chard Mirkin speaking with Northwestern's McCormick School of Engineering News. Using gold nanoparticles, the team was able to arrange them in such a way that they formed "optically-active superlattices." With the right programming, materials formed using this new technique can exhibit almost any color on the visible spectrum.
The technique combines an old fabrication method - top-down lithography, the same method used to make computer chips - with a new one - programmable self-assembly driven by DNA. The Northwestern team is the first to combine the two to achieve individual particle control in three dimensions.
Now, how precisely this technique weaves together nanoparticles, DNA strands, ethanol tunability, etc. is as baffling to us to us as Mr. Potter having a cloak made by Death that allowed him to vanish. That's why we're glad people much wiser than us, such as Mirkin and his study coauthors, McCormick Engineering professors Vinayak P. Dravid and Koray Aydin, are working on this project.
To learn more about the project, such as how the team was able to drill holes at the nanoparticle level in order to create landing pads for DNA-modified components, please check out the full story here.