Scientists at Purdue University have developed a metamaterial consisting of fishnet-like film that could theoretically be spun into a working "invisibility" cloak.
According to Professor Vladimir M. Shalaev, the material successfully addresses a key limitation in metamaterials: the absorption of excess light by metals.
"This finding is fundamental to the whole field of metamaterials,” Shalaev told PhysOrg.
"We showed that, in principle, it's feasible to conquer losses and develop these materials for many [uses]."
He noted that advanced applications - such as "planar hyperlens" - are being considered for the material, which could increase the capabilities of optical microscopes by 10x and allow them to see objects as minute as DNA.
Other uses include advanced sensors, new types of "light concentrators" for more efficient solar collectors, improved transfer rates for computers and an invisibility cloak.
"What's really important is that the absorption coefficient can be as small as only one-millionth of what it was before using our approach.
"We can even have amplification of light instead of its absorption. Here, for the first time, we showed that metamaterials can have a negative refractive index and [actually] amplify light."
Shalaev added that future iterations of the metamaterial may involve creating a technology which uses an electrical source (similiar to semiconductor lasers) which would make it more practical for computer and consumer electronics applications.