The hottest new jacket to be seen in could be one that no one sees you in at all.
Scientists from Vollebak, a science and technology-focused clothing brand, said they’re only a couple of years away from turning science fiction into a chic new trend by creating a jacket that makes humans invisible.
The UK-based brand revealed new technology designed to make humans invisible to infrared cameras by using graphene — a flexible, transparent and highly conductive material.
Vollebak, along with the University of Manchester, developed a prototype of a thermal jacket that could pave the way for a new type of camouflage.
While the jacket won’t be on the rack of a department store anytime soon, the company’s website said it’s the “first step” in creating technology that can take invisibility from an idea seen on the big screen to the streets.
The computer-programmable jacket has 42 graphene patches — made up of 100 layers of pure graphene — which is a material that changes on the infrared spectrum and visible spectrum depending on how much energy is applied to it.
“So theoretically at least, changing the charge density of the graphene will change the color we see,” the Vollebak team explained on its website.
These patches can be programmed individually to emit different levels of thermal radiation without changing the temperature of the actual jacket by running gold and copper wires into each patch that can have different voltages applied to them.
According to Vollebak, the voltage forces ions between the graphene layers use ionic liquid, and by pushing fewer ions, less thermal radiation is emitted which makes it appear colder.
This is important because humans appear very bright on infrared cameras — indicating something is warmer — so in order to appear “invisible,” the warm temperature has to be masked, but has to be done so in a way that can be worn.
Every patch on the jacket can be programmed individually to emit a different level of thermal radiation, which is how it’s able to camouflage and appear invisible to infrared cameras.
“[The jacket is] a first step towards an invisibility cloak, because in infrared you can program entire parts of it to simply disappear,” the team explained.
Vollebak said in the next decade, they hope to improve the technology and make the graphene pixels smaller, theorizing that this will make it possible to hide “anything.”
Although the jacket is still some way off, the Vollebak team says they hope that the real deal will be available one day in the near future.
“With enough patches and enough power, a person could simply blend into a forest,” they said. “Or a plane could blend into a runway.”