In the past, attempts at developing an invisbility cloak similar to that of Harry Potter's have evolved around attempts to divert or bend light rays and have yielded bulky contraptions.

However, a study recently published in the New Journal of Physics tells the story of a team from the University of Texas at Austin and how they have developed a new, ultrathin layer called a "metascreen."

Developed by attaching strips of copper tape to flexible polycarbonate film in a fishnet design, the cloak is just micrometers thick and can entirely hide 3D objects from microwaves in the environment from any angle.

Co-author of the study Andrea Alu believes that their design is the most promising thus far for the future of invisibility-related science and any practical application it may have in the world of the future. It excels, she said according to the Institute of Physics, in conformability, ease of manufacturing and improved bandwidth.

"We have shown that you don't need a bulk metamaterial to cancel the scattering from an object," Alu announced at a presentation on the study on March 26.

The term the researchers are giving their newly-devised area of study is "mantle cloaking," and in principle it could be developed to a point where even visible light can be canceled out, rendering an object completely invisible to the human eye.

"In fact," Alu said, "metascreens are easier to realize at visible frequencies than bulk metamaterials and this concept could put us closer to a practical realization."

There are several obstacles to overcome yet, however, not the least of which being that the size of the object that can be efficiently hidden through mantle cloaking scales with the wavelength of operation. This means that when the science is applied to optical frequencies, they may only be able to efficiently stop the scattering of micrometer-sized objects.

Still, Alu said she remains optimistic and envisions benefits for both biomedical and optical instrumentation based on their findings.