Vollebak’s Thermal Camouflage Jacket Proves the Viability of an Invisibility Cloak

"We’re here to turn sci-fi concepts into reality," says co-founder Nick Tidball

From launching the world’s first solar jacket that can store and re-emit light to creating the first jacket made from the aerospace material graphene, Vollebak revolutionizes clothing through science and technology. Today, they set a new precedent once again as the creators of the world’s first Thermal Camouflage Jacket, a computer-programmable piece of outerwear designed to make the body disappear in front of infrared cameras. While the development is still a prototype, the jacket lays the foundation for and proves the viability of an invisibility cloak.

The jacket—which is a culmination of three years of research between Vollebak, the National Graphene Institute and the Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre at the University of Manchester—comprises 42 patches of graphene that can be controlled with a microcomputer to emit different levels of thermal radiation that don’t change the garment’s temperature. Critically, each patch—made up of over 100 layers of pure graphene—can be programmed individually, enabling the jacket to blend into its surroundings.

Gold and copper wires are printed on polyimide film which run from the patches to a microcontroller on the jacket which is attached to a computer. When code is uploaded, a specified voltage is delivered to each patch which forces ions between the graphene layers and thus reduces thermal radiation and makes the jacket appear colder. As graphene is highly tunable, manipulating its color (which is controlled via density) is also possible, furthering the proof-of-concept of an invisibility cloak that can disappear to the naked eye.

“Over the last six years we’ve been exploring the role clothing will play in the near and far future, focusing on how the clothes we wear can equip us for things like space exploration, disease resistance, climate change and even the end of the world,” says Vollebak co-founder Nick Tidball. “Working on the moonshot of invisibility has always been top of our list. We’re here to turn sci-fi concepts into reality.” With ideas of scaling up their technology to create invisible planes and cars, Vollebak’s mystical future certainly feels within grasp.

Images courtesy of Vollebak/Sun Lee