You can see how it “absorbs” a metal cylinder.
A new nano-material recently invented does the seemingly impossible: It hides things from touch. Just a thin layer of this amazing polymer will hide anything under it from being perceived by your sense of touch.
How is this magic possible?
According to the the scientists at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, this “crystalline material structured with sub-micrometer accuracy [...] consists of needle-shaped cones, whose tips meet.” It perfectly adapts and absorbs the shape of anything under it.
The metamaterial structure directs the forces of the touching finger such that the cylinder is hidden completely.
Not only your finger won’t be able to detect it, but a force feedback measurement instrument will fail too. According to Tiemo Bückmann, the lead scientists in the project, “it is like in Hans-Christian Andersen’s fairy tale about the princess and the pea. The princess feels the pea in spite of the mattresses. When using our new material, however, one mattress would be sufficient for the princess to sleep well.”
What does this mean in real life?
The Karlsruhe Institute of Technology claims that the material was developed for purely experimental purposes, “but might open up the door to interesting applications in a few years from now, as it allows for producing materials with freely selectable mechanical properties. Examples are very thin, light, and still comfortable camping mattresses or carpets hiding cables and pipelines below.”
I like that. Carpets that can perfectly hide cables is something I’d pay money for. And I’d love a camping blanket that perfectly absorbs any rock and twig on the ground, leaving a smooth surface to sleep on.