Department News


Invisibility Cloak Unveiled

Invisibility Cloak

Photo credit: Baile Zhang and George Barbastathis, SMART Centre, Singapore.

In conjunction with his team at the Singapore MIT Alliance of Research and Technology (SMART), George Barbastathis, Singapore Research  Professor of Optics and Professor of Mechanical Engineering at MIT, was recently acknowledged for his work on an invisibility cloak, which was named No. 4 of the top 10 breakthroughs in 2010 by Physics World.

The cloak works by placing a wedge of calcite crystal—a crystalline form of calcium carbonate, the main ingredient in seashells and stalactites/stalagmites in caves—over an object. When the object is then illuminated by visible light and viewed from the direction perpendicular to the wedge, it “disappears” from sight because the observer perceives the wedge as flat and thus nonexistent. And it’s not just a simple illusion. The cloak is designed so that any scientific instrument would also be “fooled” into thinking the crystal surface is flat.

For now, the system is essentially two-dimensional, limiting the cloaking effect to a narrow range of angles, but Barbastathis, in conjunction with co-researchers SMART postdoctoral fellow Baile Zhang, MIT postdoctoral fellow Yuan Luo, and SMART researcher Xiaogang Liu, says they have some ideas about how to make it three-dimensional.

Aside from its obvious potential applications in defense or law enforcement, the ability to render something invisible could have uses in research, Barbastathis suggests, for example by providing a way to monitor animal behavior without any visible distraction.


Two MechE Teams Win Prestigious Three-in-Five Competition for Innovative Product Design

During the recent annual Design of Medical Devices Conference, teams from MechE Course 2.75 Design of Medical Devices won two out of three prizes in the prestigious Three-in-Five Competition. The competition handpicks eight teams with rapid translational potential to pitch their product by presenting three slides in five minutes.

One of the winning MIT teams, comprised of presenter Thomas Cervantes, Edward Summers, Rachel Batzer, Julia Stark, Raymond Lewis, Christie Simpson, and Dr. Nadeem Dhanani, pitched a renal cooling device for use in minimally invasive surgery. The other winning MIT team, comprised of presenter Thomas Lipoma, Pablo Bello, Carson Darling, and Dr. Matthew Bianchi, presented a shirt fitted with sensors to monitor sleep at home.

Each winning team received a $500 prize and an invitation to publish in the ASME Journal of Medical Devices.


Robot-Assisted Therapy Named a Top Advance in Stroke Research

The American Heart Association and the American Stroke Association selected the work of Dr. Igo Hermano Krebs, Principal Research Scientist and Lecturer in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, as one of the top 10 advances in stroke research in 2010.

With strokes affecting more than 6 million Americans and becoming a leading cause of long-term disability, usually in an upper limb, Krebs and his colleagues were interested in finding a way to increase arm mobility six months post-stroke, a time period for which nothing has been shown to definitively improve functionality.

The team published results of their research in the New England Journal of Medicine that show that robot-assisted therapy increases improvement significantly after 36 weeks compared with usual care.meche logo