The findings, by scientists led by Xiang Zhang, were published in the journals Nature and Science. The light-bending effect relies on reversing refraction, the effect that makes a straw placed in water appear bent. Previous efforts have shown this negative refraction effect using microwaves but the new materials work at wavelengths nearer to the visible part of the spectrum.
Two different teams led by Zhang made objects made of so-called metamaterials—artificial structures. One approach used nanometre-scale stacks of silver and magnesium fluoride in a "fishnet" structure, while another made use of nanowires made of silver. Light is neither absorbed nor reflected by the objects, passing "like water flowing around a rock," according to the researchers. As a result, only the light from behind the objects can be seen.
Although the materials might ultimately be used in developing cloaking devices it is more likely that there will be immediate applications for the devices in telecommunications and in the production of better microscopes which allow images of far smaller objects than conventional microscopes can see.
As ever I am not sure if this will lead to cloaking technology but it is fascinating stuff. It’s a shame that Kirk won’t get to seduce a Romulan captain after all!