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Making Metamaterials Digital

Category: Science & Technology
Posted: 11:03AM

Metamaterials are a special class of materials with unnatural properties. For example, a metamaterial can be made to bend light backwards, opening up the possibility for invisibility cloaks and flat lenses. Actually designing and building them is rather complicated though, but researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have made a recent discovery that may make it all much simpler.

Inspired by digital electronics that can sample analog signals to create a digital signal; the researchers found they could create metamaterial bits based on electromagnetic properties. Specifically it is a material's permittivity they look at, which is a measure of how it reacts to an electric field inside of it. When you place two materials with different and opposite permittivity values against each other, you can get some very odd results like a new permittivity value far outside what the two original materials had. By controlling the geometry of the bits though, the permittivity of the metamaterial byte can be controlled. All it takes is that the two materials have opposite permittivity values; one must be positive and the other negative.

Obviously this discovery could dramatically simplify the design of bulk metamaterials, especially as it opens up so many material combinations. The researchers did their simulations with silver and glass, but if these materials do not have the necessary physical properties to be used as a hyperlens, another combination could be found and the lens made from that.

Source: University of Pennsylvania

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