The Physics of Invisibility

Professor Sir John Pendry will speak about his technique to make objects invisible and the physics behind it.

Oct. 20, 2016, 8 p.m.
Benton Auditorium, in the Iowa State Center Scheman Building.

Professor Sir John Pendry will be the inaugural speaker of the annual Zaffarano Lecture Series. He will discuss research on metamaterials, invisibility, and transformation optics. Pendry’s current work involves bending light to make objects appear invisible. Previously, Pendry has demonstrated this phenomenon using microwaves, and now he is working on the application of his technique to light that is visible to the human eye.

The purpose of the Zaffarano Lecture is to bring each year an outstanding scholar to central Iowa and the Iowa State University community to speak on a topic in the physical sciences and discuss relevant technical applications, philosophical implications and relations to human affairs. The tradition of bringing prominent physicists to Iowa State University dates back to the John Franklin Carlson Lectures, which were inaugurated by J. Robert Oppenheimer in 1955. The Zaffarano lectures are supported by the generosity of our alumni and are hosted by the Department of Physics and Astronomy and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

“We are very fortunate to host Professor Pendry; he has pioneered the field of metamaterials and opened our eyes to new phenomena in optics, previously thought impossible,” said Frank Krennrich, chair of the Department of Physics and Astronomy.

Professor Sir John Pendry is a theoretical solid state physicist at Imperial College London, where he was head of the department of physics and principal of the faculty of physical sciences. He is a recipient of the Decartes prize awarded by the European Union, the Newton Medal of the Institute of Physics, the J. Springer Prize for Applied Physics, the Kavli Prize for nanotechnology and many others.   

Title: Metamaterials, invisibility, & transformation optics: a new world for electromagnetism

Abstract: Recently a new paradigm has entered into electromagnetism. Transformation optics is a tool exact at the level of Maxwell’s equations that is intuitive and easily solves previously difficult problems. Metamaterials partner this tool. They produce radically new material properties through engineering of internal physical structure and help to realise design parameters specified by transformation optics. I shall show how these two concepts working together have enabled cloaks of invisibility, and negative refraction, and given us the ability to concentrate light into a nanometre or less.