Photo: L. Sanchis et al
The rings you see above don't exactly make the small ball inside invisible to the eye, but it does make it undetectable to sonar:
José Sánchez-Dehesa, an electrical engineer at the Polytechnic Institute of Valencia in Spain, and his colleagues pursued a different method: Instead of preventing sound waves from hitting an object — in this case an 8-centimeter plastic sphere — they built a cloak to eliminate the scattered waves left in the sphere’s wake.
Using computer algorithms, the researchers came up with a design made up of 60 rings of various sizes that form a cagelike structure around the sphere. Simulations indicated that sound waves scattering off the sphere and the ringed cloak would interfere with each other and cancel out. (Noise-cancelling headphones exploit this phenomenon by emitting sound waves that minimize ambient sounds in a room.)
Because the cloak did not need to steer sound waves in complicated ways, Sánchez-Dehesa and his team built it out of plastic with the help of a 3-D printer. They hung their creation from the ceiling of an echo-free chamber, pointed a speaker at it and played a range of sound frequencies. For most frequencies, the sphere scattered an easily detectable amount of sound. But at 8.55 kilohertz — an audible high pitch — the cloaked sphere became imperceptible to the sensors behind it.