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Hiding from infrared cameras is now possible

Washington D.C. [U.S.A.], Jun 24 : A team of researchers has come up with a technology that can hide hot objects from infrared scanners.

According to the University of Wisconsin study, hiding from detectors, that could help drones find their targets even in the dead of night or through heavy fog, will become much easier, thanks to a new cloaking material that renders objects - and people - practically invisible.

"What we have shown is an ultrathin stealth 'sheet.' Right now, what people have is much heavier metal armour or thermal blankets," said Hongrui Jiang.

Warm objects like human bodies or tank engines emit heat as infrared light. The new stealth sheet offered substantial improvements over other heat-masking technologies.

"It's a matter of the weight, the cost and ease of use," said Jiang.

Less than one millimetre thick, the sheet absorbed approximately 94 percent of the infrared light it encounters. Trapping so much light means that warm objects beneath the cloaking material become almost completely invisible to infrared detectors.

Importantly, the stealth material could strongly absorb light in the so-called mid- and long-wavelength infrared range, the type of light emitted by objects at approximately human body temperature.

By incorporating electronic heating elements into the stealth sheet, the researchers had also created a high-tech disguise for tricking infrared cameras.

"You can intentionally deceive an infrared detector by presenting a false heat signature," said Jiang. "It could conceal a tank by presenting what looks like a simple highway guardrail."

To trap infrared light, Jiang and colleagues turned to a unique material called black silicon, which is commonly incorporated into solar cells. Black silicon absorbs light because it consists of millions of microscopic needles (called nanowires) all pointing upward like a densely-packed forest.
Incoming light reflects back and forth between the vertical spires, bouncing around within the material instead of escaping.

Although black silicon has long been known to absorb visible light, Jiang and colleagues were the first to see the material's potential for trapping infrared. They boosted its absorptive properties by tweaking the method through which they created their material.

"We didn't completely reinvent the whole process, but we did extend the process to much taller nanowires," said Jiang, who developed the material.

They made those nanowires by using tiny particles of silver to help etch down into a thin layer of solid silicon, which resulted in a thicket of tall needles. Both the nanowires and the silver particles contributed to absorbing infrared light.

The researchers' black silicon also had a flexible backing interspersed with small air channels. Those air channels prevented the stealth sheet from heating up too quickly as it absorbed infrared light.
The study appears in the journal Advanced Engineering Materials.

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