Of Metamaterial and Invisibility

{ September 4th, 2007 }


A post over at got me thinking about nanotechnology, and how researchers and scientists are experimenting with nanofactories that build nanomaterials like carbon nanotubes, and then assemble those nanotubes into larger nanostructures. Think about the possibilities for material science utilizing nanotechnology. Structures that assemble themselves from unseen particles. Your home could assemble itself wherever you need it. You would never need to stay at a hotel again… or own land.

I started looking into research being done with nanomaterials, but became sidetracked by . Metamaterial is a material that gains its properties from its structure rather than directly from its composition. The term was coined by Rodger M. Walser of the University of Texas at Austin in 1999, and metamaterials were defined by him in 2002 as follows:

“macroscopic composites having a manmade, three-dimensional, periodic cellular architecture designed to produce an optimized combination, not available in nature, of two or more responses to specific excitation.”

Unique, customizable, producible, controllable materials based on periodic elements. Essentially, these unique materials are special, and of special importance in electromagnetism, communications and optics - three key areas with a number of promising technology applications. For optical applications alone there are an enormous number of potential uses for metamaterials… like laser guidance and modulation and high capacity directional lenses. Things not acheiveable with traditional optics technologies.

Interestingly, there has lately been much talk about how metamaterials might also possibly allow for the often used in science fiction, and long on the wish list of our friends at . Not exactly THAT invisibility cloak, but researchers at have been able to use the materials to hide an object from being detected by microwave sensors. That is still incredibly cool, and still of great value to a wide array of military technologies. It also makes me think of the worn by the characters in Philip K. Dick’s .

Only until recently, metamaterials were used to modify light. Researches have begun to investigate their ability to modify sound, another form of wave energy, their thinking being that an acoustic application of these materials would do the same for sound as it does for light. If acoustic metamaterials really can do the same for sound as they do for light, that could mean better lenses for ultrasound machines, and perhaps even cloaks that can hide submarines from sonar. I am guessing that is on DARPA’s wish list as well.


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3 Responses to “Of Metamaterial and Invisibility”

  1. 1

    […] its properties from its structure rather than directly from its composition as noted on Wikipedia. Schneiderism post “Of Metamaterial and Invisibility” starts to show how this structuring will shift […]

  2. 2

    […] sheets of protein its actions, at microscopic scale, create a tough and crystalline material. Schneiderism post “Of Metamaterial and Invisibility” expands on how properties of structure will […]

  3. 3

    Thank you for sharing!

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