‘Invisibility cloak’ professor gets Newton medal

The scientist who developed the first-ever prototype for an “invisibility cloak” has been given a top award by the Institute of Physics.

July 1, 2013

Imperial College London’s Sir John Pendry has received the Issac Newton Medal, an international prize for outstanding contribution to physics, for his work on “surface science, disordered systems and photonics”. 

Sir John, a fellow of the Royal Society, has conducted important research on transformation optics, negative refraction and metamaterials.

In 2006, his research on metamaterials led to the creation of the first “invisibility cloak”, which is able to make objects invisible to microwave beams. The cloak “grabs” light heading towards it, meaning that waves move around the object instead of striking it.

Metamaterials could also be used to create a “perfect lens” microscope, which would allow scientists to examine objects smaller than the wave of light being used.

Sir Peter Knight, president of the Institute of Physics, said: “In his illustrious career, John has revolutionised the way physicists think of materials and, in particular, the way materials react to light.

“His theories have inspired experimentalists around the world to design metamaterial devices, including, of course, the highly-anticipated invisibility cloak.”

Four Gold Medal award winners were also announced today, together with seven subject award medals.

The Institute of Physics has also appointed four new honorary fellows: Dame Athene Donald, professor of experimental physics at the University of Cambridge, Michael Green, Lucasian professor of mathematics at Cambridge, Thomas Kibble, emeritus professor of theoretical physics at Imperial College London and Michèle Leduc, emeritus research director at the French National Centre for Scientific Research.

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