LONDON: Scientists have unveiled the world's first cloaking device, using technology designed to make solid objects vanish from sight. Cloaking devices are keenly awaited and coveted by the military, which believes they will usher in a new age of stealth technology by hiding planes and other vehicles from radar. More advanced versions could ultimately be good enough to make objects or people invisible to onlookers. The prototype was built and demonstrated in America by a team of U.S. and British scientists only five months after proving it was theoretically possible to pull off the most famous of optical illusions, without breaking the laws of physics. The device works on the principle that an object vanishes from sight if light rays striking it are not reflected as usual, but forced to flow around it and carry on, as if it was not there. To make cloaks, scientists developed ``metamaterials'', thin metal sheets that can bend light in precisely the right way. In the demonstration, scientists showed that a small object surrounded by rings of metamaterials in effect disappeared. Sir John Pendry, the theoretical physicist who developed the idea, said cloaking devices to hide vehicles from radar were only a matter of years away.

Guardian Newspapers Limited 2006