On a Friday in mid-June, students at Schaefer Hall tested out their optical cloak. Mirrors were lined up at the end of the hallway and a film crew gathered at the other end. Students poked their heads out of a nearby class room to watch as the cloak’s creators stood by. A small dog was led in. Using treats, he was finally coaxed into standing behind one of the mirrors. It was then that the audience saw what an optical cloak did. The dog disappeared. The mirror reflected the door behind it, and the dog should have been there too. Instead, he was gone.
This cloaking devise was the product of three days’ work. Five students were involved, Chris Lynch, Max Ashley, Savannah Bergen, Tommie Day, and Tyler Jones. They were supervised by two professors; Joshua Grossman, associate professor of physics, and Emek Kӧse, assistant professor of math.
“An optical cloak will make its contents invisible by passing light around the hidden region so that it continues onward in the same direction it originally traveled,” Grossman explained. The ‘toy’ cloaks they made only work from a limited number of angles, but researchers are working on ‘true’ optical cloaks that work from all directions and with all light wavelengths. The group also made another optical cloak, a smaller version made from lenses rather than large mirrors.
“The students are all here for other summer projects, and we’re doing this for fun, education, and outreach,” Dr. Grossman continued. “Besides being a good way to learn some optics, there’s math involved in describing these toy cloaks in the form of geometry and linear algebra.”
The optical cloak project was twofold, an opportunity to test out a project for future classes and a side project to various other internships.
This project wasn’t his first in the ultrasound lab, “In the past year, we have focused on the effects of muscle fiber orientation on transmitting an ultrasound beam through an organic sample,” Ashley continued. At this stage in research, Ashley and Dr. Milne are using a chicken breast. “[But] the ultimate goal is to be able to map human hearts with ultrasound.” This would give doctors cheaper, quicker, and more widely available methods to identify deformities and abnormalities. Ashley plans to graduate in 2017.