A Harry Potter invisibility cloak which works against radar and InfraRed?
There’s probably not a single cinema goer who has seen the Harry Potter films and hasn’t envied him his invisibility cloak.
The idea isn’t new - the magical ‘Ring of Gyges,’ which made the wearer invisible, featured in a tale told by the ancient Greek philosopher Plato. From the 18th century onwards, as brightly coloured uniforms gave way to camouflage, infantrymen have developed ways to fight while remaining unseen by their enemies often mimicking techniques learned from the natural world. Today’s twenty-first century snipers have taken disguising themselves to extreme and bizarre levels.
But today’s warfighters don’t just need to be invisible to the naked eye. They are challenged by enemies using night-sights working on the infrared spectrum. Heat-sensing binoculars widely available – even on Amazon – and have been taken up by insurgent groups around the world. Special forces, which for decades have attacked in the dark because restricted Western technology gave them an edge, no longer have such an advantage.
More advanced adversaries can use Radar to look for enemy combatants: pinging out electromagnetic signals and interpreting to a high level of detail the echoes with the assistance of artificial intelligence. No matter how well your camouflage mimics the foliage around you, no cotton-polyester mix will hide you from those looking for you.
The problem is particularly acute for infantry personnel as unlike aircraft and ships, which can be designed with angles and coatings that deflect and obfuscate radio signals, people can’t be made stealthy in the same sort of way. There are also fewer options for the dissipation or hiding of heat (although people tend to generate less of it than large pieces of military hardware).
The solution likely lies in nanomaterials. Based on graphene, the Nobel-prize winning British discovery, which now has many patented applications, uniforms and head covering may be infused with tiny signal-changing particles. This means people wearing such fabrics may no longer reflect certain or even any part of the electromagnetic spectrum – light, infrared or the longer-wave radio signals used by radar. Body heat, too, can be obscured through an adjustment of the Infra-red wavelength which changes the person’s apparent body temperature.
These full spectrum camouflage materials may also be applied to military equipment, possibly as easily as a thin coating of paint. Due to the materials' interaction with the electromagnetic environment, there is the added benefit of protecting sensitive internal systems, from electromagnetic pulse (EMP) weapons, which might otherwise damage delicate circuits and render them useless on the battlefield. Current research expects to deliver a nano-particle infused paint which is likely to be quick, simple and inexpensive; vital considerations in modern times.
It’s not quite the full invisibility cloak as Harry utilises to his enviable advantage – prying eyes won’t see through soldiers and equipment as if they weren’t there at all. But it means soldiers using these materials will regain the edge previously lost, whether their enemies are using infrared goggles or radar, or trying to fry their equipment with pulse weapons. Modern magic worthy of JKR herself.