Stealth technology is one of the biggest advantages any military could wield, and now China is looking to out-gun other nations in the field after scientists unveiled a breakthrough that could effectively create invisible fighter jets and warships.
Researchers from China's Huazhong University of Science and Technology have developed a new material capable of completely absorbing all radar microwaves and is ''almost ten times thinner than conventional ones''.
This kind of technology isn't new but it has always been too thick and heavy to apply to aircraft – or has been unable to absorb all wavelengths. Now thanks to an ultra-thin absorbing surface called an active frequency selective surface (AFSS) that's only 0.4mm thick, it can be stretched over jet fighters, vehicles or equipment.
Radar systems beam out microwave energy and anything that reflects it is detected – something that can absorb these waves will succeed in going unnoticed and the team believes their tunable new material can do just that at ultra-high frequency (UHF). The stealth technology in current use ranges from radar reflecting aircraft shapes to special deflecting paint but both have their weaknesses.
''At frequencies below two gigahertz, conventional microwave absorbers are limited in application by their thickness and narrow absorption bandwidth,'' Wenhua Xu, a member of the research team, explained.
The breakthrough material is made up of layers of circuit boards, the AFSS, and topped with a thin metal honeycomb. It is understood this is the first time this stretching technology has been used to expand the bandwidth of microwaves it can absorb. Surprisingly, the Chinese government isn't keeping this technology under its hat as it is publicly published in the Journal of Applied Physics.
Military tech continues to rapidly evolve and this latest development displays China closing the gap in an area once dominated by the US.