Scientists at Oxford University have created a substance once only reserved for science fiction โ€” Star Trek IV-like transparent aluminum. It takes a serious laser and there's kind of a catch, but just imagine it, invisible cars!

The process starts with a soft X-Ray laser capable of 10 billion times the previous output of radiation, focused on a spot of regular old aluminum 1/20th the diameter of a human hair. A blast from the laser knocks out a key electron from the aluminum atom and renders the substance transparent. Though it hasn't been named yet, this is being considered a new state of matter with important implications for planetary study and the future of nuclear fusion.

More important to us though, just imagine windshields as strong as aluminum, but not subject to rock chips and spider cracks. Valve covers of see-through aluminum, all the better to ogle your fancy valve train. Oil pans you can look right through in order to see if your oil is filthy. It's a car designers wet dream this transparent aluminum stuff, but there is a catch. The momentary blast from the laser is approximately equal to the output of a city-sized power plant and so far the transparency only lasts 40 femtoseconds (that's 0.000000000000040 seconds). Still, it's a start. [PhysOrg]