A real-life 'invisibility cloak' is a step closer to moving beyond the realms of Harry Potter, according to a new a study.
Scientists have successfully tested an ultra-thin cloak made of microscopic rectangular gold blocks that, like skin, conform to the shape of an object and can render it undetectable to the naked eye.
Experiments involved cloaking miniscule objects - but scientists say the method could be used to conceal larger items, and could even be used to camouflage tanks and planes on the battlefield.
Other speculative uses include a face-mask that hides your spots and wrinkles, and a stomach-flattener that replaces your pot-belly with a washboard.
The cloak, 80 nanometers thick, was wrapped around a three-dimensional object shaped with bumps and dents. The cloak's surface diverted light waves from the object, tricking the naked eye into seeing it as if it was being reflected by a flat mirror.
It may take five to 10 years to make the technology practical to use, according to Xiang Zhang, director of the Materials Sciences Division of the US Government's Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and a professor at the University of California, Berkeley.
The professor said: "We do not see fundamental roadblocks. But much more work needs to be done."
The technology involves so-called metamaterials, which possess properties not present in nature. Their surfaces bear features much smaller than the size of a wavelength of light. They redirect incoming light waves, shifting them away from the object being cloaked.
Prof Xingjie Ni of Penn State University, lead author of the study published in Science, said: "The fact that we can make a curved surface appear flat also means that we can make it look like anything else. We also can make a flat surface appear curved."
The researchers said they overcame two drawbacks of previous experimental microscopic cloaks that were bulkier and harder to "scale up," or become usable for larger objects.
Prof Ni said a face-mask would mean that "all the pimples and wrinkles will no longer be visible" while a stomach-flattener "can be made to hide one's belly."
According to harrypotter.wikia.com, the Cloak of Invisibility appears in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and the Tale of the Three Brothers. It is defined "a magical garment which renders whatever it covers unseeable [which] may be made from the hair of Demiguise, a magical creature."
Additional reporting by ReutersReuse content