That fear of being detected has led the military to develop new stealth technologies that allow ships to be virtually invisible to the human eye, to dodge roaming radars, put heat-seeking missiles off the scent, disguise their own sound vibrations and even reduce the way they distort the Earth’s magnetic field, as senior lecture in remote sensing and sensors technology at Britannia Royal Navy College, Chris Lavers, explains in March’s Physics World.
Wars throughout the twentieth century prompted advances in stealth technologies. Some of the earliest but most significant strides towards invisibility involved covering ships with flamboyant cubist patterns – a technique known as “dazzle painting”. During the Second World War, the US military even worked out a way of using lights to make the brightness of a ship match that of the background sea.
When British physicist Robert Watson Watt was charged with designing a ‘death ray’ to destroy entire towns and cities during the Second World War, he calculated it impossible. He did conclude however that radio waves could be used to detect ships and aircrafts too far way to be seen by the naked eye.
Radar was born. For ships to dodge radar, both a ship’s geometry and a ship’s coating have to be considered. Radars are particularly receptive to right angles, which is why modern battleships are often peculiarly shaped. Special paint and foam-coating have also been used to cover ships, which convert radio-waves into heat and stop radio waves being reflected, rendering the signals useless.
The “stealthiest” ship that currently exists is Sweden’s Visby Corvette. Apart from being painted in grey dazzle camouflage and made of low-radar reflectivity materials, it also does not use propellers, which are the noisiest part of a ship. The vessel also has the lowest “magnetic signature” of any current warship.
But the next generation of warships could be truly invisible by exploiting “metamaterials” – artificially engineered structures first dreamt up by physicist John Pendry at Imperial College, London. Metamaterials are tailored to have specific electromagnetic properties not found in nature. In particular, they can bend light around an object, making it appear to an observer as though the waves have passed through empty space.
About the research, Chris Lavers writes, “If optical and radar metamaterials could be developed, they might provide a way to make a ship invisible to both human observers and radar systems, although the challenges of building a cloak big enough to hide an entire ship are huge.”
Also in this issue:
•Full steam ahead – an interview with next CERN boss Rolf-Dieter Heuer about the challenges when the Large Hadron Collider opens later this year
•Microelectronics based on the flow of heat – the new and exciting field of ‘phononics’
Charlie Wallace | alfa
Researchers create artificial materials atom-by-atom
28.03.2017 | Aalto University
Astronomers probe swirling particles in halo of starburst galaxy
28.03.2017 | International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research
The Institute of Semiconductor Technology and the Institute of Physical and Theoretical Chemistry, both members of the Laboratory for Emerging Nanometrology (LENA), at Technische Universität Braunschweig are partners in a new European research project entitled ChipScope, which aims to develop a completely new and extremely small optical microscope capable of observing the interior of living cells in real time. A consortium of 7 partners from 5 countries will tackle this issue with very ambitious objectives during a four-year research program.
To demonstrate the usefulness of this new scientific tool, at the end of the project the developed chip-sized microscope will be used to observe in real-time...
Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.
The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.
Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...
Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.
Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...
In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...
20.03.2017 | Event News
14.03.2017 | Event News
07.03.2017 | Event News
28.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
28.03.2017 | Health and Medicine
28.03.2017 | Life Sciences