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An invisibility cloak would pretty much be the coolest piece of wearable technology ever. You could sneak around undetected, listen in on conversations you probably shouldn’t be listening too, hide a bad hair day, you name it. They would also be handy for some super top secret missions, but a new use for invisibility cloaks would blow all those other ideas out of the water. A researcher from University of California Berkeley is proposing the idea of using invisibility cloaks for ships at sea. This “cloak” would have the capability of protecting the ship from rogue waves, minimizing damage and saving lives in the process. It may sound a bit far-fetched, but the technology may not be that far off.

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Before you start imagining a giant iridescent cloth that captains would drape over their ships – the technology isn’t quite like that. Most cloaking technology is based on transformation optics and tweaking materials so that light and waves pass through. A cloaking device for ships in the water still relies on waves, but it actually involves changing the shape of waves so they pass under the boat without causing harm.

Reza Alam, assistant professor of mechanical engineering at the University of California, Berkeley, recently presented his findings at the American Physical Society’s (APS) Division of Fluid Dynamics (DFD) meeting, held from November 18-20, 2012, in San Diego, CA. Alam’s research delves into the variation of density in ocean water and waves. Ocean or sea water varies greatly in density based on temperature and salinity which creates stratified layers. Stratified waters contain “internal waves”, which are based on gravity, as well as “surface waves” caused by weather. Both of these waves are then affected by the undulations of the sea floor, but have different energies.

Alam took his understanding of waves and their influences and used computer simulations to transform a surface wave into an internal wave as it approaches an object. Basically, in his computer simulations, Alam changed the sea floor to affect the wave and make it do what he wanted. Outside of the computer world on the open ocean, the idea is that a ship would have the technology to project a new sea floor below and in front of its path. This projection would change the shape of the wave causing it to safely move under the ship without causing harm. How this technology actually works is still to be worked out, but the concept could save lives and a lot of money. This cloaking device could also be used on near-shore and on-shore sites to protect buildings and property from storm surge.

+ Press Release

+ American Physical Society

[Via ScienceDaily]