Scottish scientists have developed a new material called "Metaflex" that may pave the way for the manufacturing of fabrics that manipulate light. Metamaterials have already been developed for bending and channeling light to make objects invisible, but only at longer wavelengths.

The problem with making objects invisible to the naked eye is that visible light utilizes a much shorter wavelength, meaning that the atoms of the metamaterial have to be very small. Constructing such a chain of atoms to be malleable enough for clothing is extremely hard, but scientists at the University of St. Andrews believe they have solved this problem.

Using a new technique, the team of scientists have been able to produce metamaterial "membranes" that frees the meta-atoms from the traditional hard surface they are constructed on, having capabilities of stacking together to form a flexible "smart fabric." These chains of membranes can then be stacked on several levels to produce a three-dimensional metamaterial in the optical range.

It looks like we may be able to achieve invisibility much sooner than originally perceived, and this new metamaterial opens the door to the next expanse of designing fabrics that manipulate optical wavelengths.

Image: "The invisible man…" by Shamus O'Reilly on Flickr courtesy of Creative Commons Licensing.