World’s First Thermal-Camo Jacket Paves Way for ‘Invisibility Cloak’

Unlike the rest of its monthly product launches, Vollebak’s latest release is not for sale. Instead, it’s a proof-of-concept designed to catapult reality into sci-fi territory.

Don this one-of-a-kind jacket, tiled with 42 graphene patches — each embedded with its own individual microcomputer — and you can be totally invisible. Well, sort of — you would appear invisible to anyone looking at you through infrared goggles.

In fact, wearing the Thermal Camouflage Jacket, a one-off proof-of-concept innovation between Vollebak and the University of Manchester, you could appear however you wanted within the infrared spectrum — from invisible to hyper-visible.

volleback thermal camouflage jacket

The product of some 3 years of research and development by scientists and materials experts, the computer-programmable Thermal Camouflage Jacket is, suffice to say, difficult to really explain.

So instead, let’s dumb it way down to the fun part: You can actually control how this jacket appears to anyone looking at you through the infrared spectrum. You could tune each of the graphene patches to emit whatever thermal radiation you want, without actually changing the temperature of the patches — or the jacket.

Obviously, if you’re a materials scientist or engineer, I have your undivided attention. But what about Joe Sixpack — why do you care? Because if you’re like me, you’ve seen “Predator” (or at least “Harry Potter”) and the idea of true invisibility has always seemed like an impossible fantasy.

But as of today, that fantasy has become significantly less impossible … probably.

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Vollebak Thermal Camouflage Jacket

I should stress this now — the power of invisibility does not yet exist. And even this thermal-camo jacket is a one-off. So realistically, you can’t just make yourself infrared invisible right now. And even if you could, you’d have to be plugged into a computer while you wore the jacket.

But this is the first time anyone has created a jacket that could be thermally tuned along the infrared spectrum. And that is a big deal — at least, according to the microscopes-and-math crowd.

volleback thermal camouflage jacket

“The prototype Thermal Camouflage Jacket proves the viability of wearable thermal camouflage for the first time and I can now confidently say that the concept of an invisibility cloak is no longer science fiction,” said Coskun Kocabas, professor of 2D device materials at the University of Manchester and the National Graphene Institute, which collaborated on the jacket.

“While the Thermal Camouflage Jacket only operates on the infrared spectrum today, it should ultimately be possible to build a version that also operates on the visible spectrum, and this will be the invisibility cloak that the world’s been waiting for.”

And that, my friends, is why the rest of us give a hoot. Kocabas noted that graphene — the greatest thing to happen in outdoor gear since Dyneema, and the material that underpins this jacket — is “tunable.”

That means that when you apply energy to it, you can change how the graphene appears in both the infrared and visible spectrums.

How It Works

There are two ways to explain how this jacket works. The first is through words (the scientists’ words):

“Each patch in the prototype jacket contains hundreds of atom-thick layers of graphene, which is grown at the GEIC in a high-temperature furnace that reaches around 1,000 degrees celsius. Gold and copper wires printed on a polyimide film run from the graphene patches to a microcontroller on the jacket, which is attached to a computer.

“Code can be uploaded to this microcontroller, which then delivers voltage to each patch of graphene. The electrical current forces ions between the layers of graphene, which changes its optical properties. The more ions pushed between the graphene layers, the colder it looks, and the less thermal radiation it emits.”

The second, and far more entertaining method, is to watch this delightful video of the jacket in action, set to the Tetris theme — enjoy!

Vollebak in a Nutshell

Since its founding in 2015, British brand Vollebak — the brainchild of twin brothers Nick and Steve Tidball — has developed extreme-environment and never-before-seen apparel innovation.

Vollebak’s bombastic garments include an antimicrobial, self-sterilizing jacket, a Mars Jacket (complete with vomit pocket), and a fire- and zombie-proof Apocalypse Jacket.

And that’s just off the top of my head. Learn more about the latest advances in invisibility and shop all the outlandish in outerwear, at Vollebak.

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