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Metamaterial Design Allows Hardness to Change

Category: Science & Technology
Posted: 01:48PM

For natural materials, their characteristics typically cannot be changed after being produced, so hard materials will remain hard and soft materials will remain soft. Metamaterials, however, are materials designed with special structures that can allow them to possess properties not possible in Nature, such as a negative index of refraction, which can allow for invisibility cloaks. In this case though, researchers at the University of Michigan have designed a metamaterial that can transition between hard and soft states.

When an object comes in contact with the metamaterial's surface it can change its structure, altering how the edge reacts to stress. The properties of the metamaterial are topologically protected as well, so the inside bulk of the material will not be damaged despite repeated transitions between the hard and soft states.

Possible applications for such a metamaterials include cars and reusable rockets. In a car the material could shift from a stiff state for supporting loads to a soft state that can absorb the energy of a crash. Reusable rockets could be made more damage-resistant as well and bicycle tires could self-adjust depending on the terrain.

Source: University of Michigan

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