London, Aug 10 : The realm of science fiction and fantasy has moved a step closer to reality after scientists engineered a material that can bend visible light around objects - a breakthrough that can humans and objects invisible.
Researchers at the University of California at Berkeley, whose work is funded by the American military, have engineered materials that can control light's direction of travel. he world's two leading scientific journals, Science and Nature, are expected to report the results this week.
Underlying the work is the idea that bending visible light around an object will hide it.
"In the case of invisibility cloaks or shields, the material would need to curve light waves completely around the object like a river flowing around a rock," TimesOnline quoted Xiang Zhang, the leader of the researchers, as saying.
An observer looking at the cloaked object would then see light from behind it - making it seem to disappear.
Substances capable of achieving such feats are known as "meta-materials" and have the power to "grab" electromagnetic radiation and deflect it smoothly.
The tiny scale at which such researchers must operate is astonishing in itself. Zhang's researchers had to construct a material whose elements were engineered to within about 0.00000066 of a metre.