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May 14th, 2008
A California nanotechnology research lab says it has created the first 3D material able to bend light in the opposite direction to natural materials. But some other specialists in the field remain sceptical about the claim.
Physicists have in recent years made it possible to bend, or refract, light in the opposite direction to any natural materials. These metamaterials make it possible to create invisibility cloaks that hide an object by steering light around it.
The refractive index of a material is a measure of how it bends light and for natural materials it is always positive. Metamaterials, though, can have negative refractive indexes.
This is achieved with tiny periodic structures that interact with the electric and magnetic fields that comprise light. The repeating structures need to be smaller than the light waves themselves, something that has limited them to long-wavelength light, or microwaves.
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