……On so much more than invisibility cloaks

28 October 2013

Professor Sir John Pendry will use this year’s Newton Lecture to explain how his life’s work is about so much more than the development of a Harry Potter-style invisibility cloak.

Sir John Pendry

Although Professor Pendry appreciates the popular appeal of invisibility cloaks – particularly the excitement that cloaks generate among younger audiences – he would like to see the general public more readily engage with the ubiquitous applications of his broader research areas.   

Professor Pendry says, “With my colleague and collaborators, I have developed two new paradigms for electromagnetism that are going to have dramatic effects on the development of technologies for decades to come.   

“I do regret that this is often over-shadowed by the prospect of an invisibility cloak.”

The two new paradigms, embodied in the theoretical work on both metamaterials and transformation optics, allow for continually increasing levels of control over a wide range of the electromagnetic spectrum.

Staying with the idea of cloaks, Professor Pendry’s work has created an opportunity to build cloaks that protect against sound, heat, radio and microwaves - potentially incorporable in homes (protecting from noise), mobile phone technology (containing microwaves) and army tanks (against detection by radio-waves).

With cloaks to one side, however, it is not often noted that Sir John’s work has applications throughout the electromagnetic spectrum. Researches are applying these new ideas to security screening, medical imaging, wireless communications, satcom receivers, and more. Already several startups are in progress as well as adoption of the technology by major corporations.

Dr Frances Saunders, President of the Institute of Physics, said, “Sir John is a pioneer on so many levels and we’re delighted that he’s using the opportunity our Newton Lecture presents to highlight the wide-ranging importance of his research areas.
“John’s theoretical work and its impact is a fantastic example of how physicists can change our lives, not just the way we see the world.”   

Professor Sir John Pendry is giving the 2013 Newton Lecture following being awarded the Newton Medal earlier this year.

For further information about Sir John’s work and the Newton Medal, please go to http://www.iop.org/about/awards/newton/page_60376.html. A video interview with Sir John can be viewed here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K9_rsZna-Dc.