What’s the secret to giving the United States an edge in the war on terror?
Simple: Develop technology that makes soldiers and military vehicles invisible.
It may sound like science fiction, but some cutting-edge innovators are already on the verge of making this a reality. No smoke and mirrors required.
Let’s take a look at two of the most promising breakthroughs that are in development right now…
Tanks Play Hide and Seek With Infrared Cameras
Global defense company, BAE Systems (BAESY), has actually created a way to make a military tank completely invisible to infrared cameras.
Using a system called ADAPTIV, the company is able to cover a tank in hexagonal plates that change temperature on-demand. The breakthrough technology allows the plates to heat up or cool down very quickly in order to match the vehicle’s “body heat” to the temperature outside.
As a result, a 60-ton behemoth can completely vanish on enemy thermal-imaging displays used for nighttime surveillance.
But that’s not even the most impressive feature…
Since each pixel has its own temperature control setting, they can be activated in specific patterns to alter the tank’s appearance. So instead of just vanishing into thin air, a tank could disguise itself as anything from a small car to an animal.
Other projects like this have been attempted in the past. But according to Project manager, Peder Sjölund, ADAPTIV pixels are stronger, cheaper and more efficient than previous technology.
Better yet, BAE is currently working on fusing the pixels with other advanced materials to generate a true invisibility shield that works during the day, too.
Think that’s amazing? Well, researchers in Texas think they have an invisibility solution that could have even more diverse applications…
Now You See it, Now You Don’t
Scientists at the University of Texas at Dallas have achieved a full invisibility effect by replicating the optical illusion associated with a mirage.
When you think of a mirage, you likely imagine someone scrambling through a desert and miraculously seeing a pool of water that doesn’t exist.
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As The Institute of Physics explains, “This occurs because the air near the ground is a lot warmer than the air higher up, causing light rays to bend upward toward the viewer’s eye rather than bounce off the surface.”
The direct beam of light tricks the brain into seeing blue sky instead of the desert surface, thus casting a shield of invisibility over the sand below.
In order to reproduce this invisibility effect, the researchers looked to carbon nanotubes, or CNTs, which absorb and radiate heat remarkably well.
First, they blast heat onto a transparent sheet of CNTs. Then the sheet transfers the heat into the surrounding area. And just like in a desert, the temperature bends the light around the CNTs, causing objects behind the sheet to disappear.
Needless to say, both of these technologies have extraordinary market potential. BAE Systems believes its ADAPTIV system will be ready for production in the next two years.
And the University of Texas’ prototype could have countless commercial applications. When asked when we could potentially see this technology in mainstream use, the lead author of the study, Dr. Ali Aliev, said that they still need to find a “way to protect the carbon nanotube sheet. [Since] any air or water flow can easily destroy the suspended film.” But he thinks that issue could be solved within the next decade.
If they found a way to infuse the technology into say, fabric, there’s no question it would be a smash hit with consumers.
Imagine, for instance, the amount of people (me included) who would line up to get their hands on a real invisibility cloak!
One thing’s for sure, hide and seek would never be the same again.
Ahead of the tape,