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The Lead

Slinky lookalike “hyperlens” helps us see tiny objects

May 22, 2015 10:27 am | by Cory Nealon, Univ. at Buffalo | News | Comments

It looks like a Slinky suspended in motion. Yet this photonics advancement, called a metamaterial hyperlens, doesn’t climb down stairs. Instead, it improves our ability to see tiny objects. The hyperlens may someday help detect some of the most lethal forms of cancer.

Artificial hand responds to sensitively thanks to muscles made from smart metal wires

March 24, 2015 3:52 pm | by Saarland University | News | Comments

Engineers have taken a leaf out of nature's book by equipping an artificial hand with muscles...

Building blocks of the future defy logic

February 26, 2015 11:58 am | by Cassi Camilleri, Univ. of Malta | News | Comments

Wake up in the morning and stretch; your midsection narrows. Pull on a piece of plastic at...

Perfect colors, captured with ultra-thin lens

February 20, 2015 7:50 am | by Caroline Perry, Harvard Univ. | News | Comments

Most lenses are, by definition, curved. After all, they are named for their resemblance to...

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New design tool for metamaterials

February 10, 2015 8:33 am | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

Metamaterials offer tantalizing future prospects such as high-resolution optical microscopes and superfast optical computers. To realize the vast potential of metamaterials, however, scientists will need to hone their understanding of the fundamental physics behind them. This will require accurately predicting nonlinear optical properties.

Engineering discovery brings invisibility closer to reality

January 26, 2015 8:01 am | by Pete Brown, UA College of Engineering | News | Comments

Since the beginning of recorded time, humans have used materials found in nature to improve their lot. Since the turn of this century, scientists have studied metamaterials, artificial materials engineered to bend electromagnetic, acoustic and other types of waves in ways not possible in nature. Now, a discovery has been made with these synthetic materials that may take engineers one step closer to building microscopes with superlenses.

Bending acoustic and elastic waves with metamaterials

January 23, 2015 7:51 am | by Jeff Sossamon, Univ. of Missouri-Columbia | News | Comments

Sound waves passing through the air, objects that break a body of water and cause ripples or shockwaves from earthquakes all are considered “elastic” waves. These waves travel at the surface or through a material without causing any permanent changes to the substance’s makeup. Now, researchers have developed a material that has the ability to control these waves.

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2-D metamaterial surface manipulates light

January 15, 2015 9:02 am | by Penn State Univ. | News | Comments

A single layer of metallic nanostructures has been designed, fabricated and tested by a team of Penn State Univ. electrical engineers that can provide exceptional capabilities for manipulating light. This engineered surface, which consists of a periodic array of strongly coupled nanorod resonators, could improve systems that perform optical characterization in scientific devices, sensing or satellite communications.

Single-photon emission enhancement

January 14, 2015 8:01 am | by Emil Venere, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers have demonstrated a new way to enhance the emission of single photons by using "hyperbolic metamaterials," a step toward creating devices in work aimed at developing quantum computers and communications technologies. Optical metamaterials harness clouds of electrons called surface plasmons to manipulate and control light.

Nanoshaping method points to future manufacturing technology

December 12, 2014 7:00 am | News | Comments

A new method that creates large-area patterns of three-dimensional nanoshapes from metal sheets represents a potential manufacturing system to inexpensively mass produce innovations such as "plasmonic metamaterials" for advanced technologies.

Research shows way to design digital metamaterials

December 1, 2014 2:39 pm | by Evan Lerner, Univ. of Pennsylvania | Videos | Comments

Metamaterials, precisely designed composite materials that have properties not found in natural ones, could be used to make light-bending invisibility cloaks, flat lenses and other otherwise impossible devices. Figuring out the necessary composition and internal structure to create these unusual effects is a challenge but new research from the Univ. of Pennsylvania presents a way of simplifying things.

Technique allows ultrasound to penetrate bone, metal

November 21, 2014 8:53 am | by Matt Shipman, News Services, North Carolina State Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers from North Carolina State Univ. have developed a technique that allows ultrasound to penetrate bone or metal, using customized structures that offset the distortion usually caused by these so-called “aberrating layers.” The researchers addressed this problem by designing customized metamaterial structures that take into account the acoustic properties of the aberrating layer and offsetting them.

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Outsmarting thermodynamics in self-assembly of nanostructures

November 3, 2014 1:56 pm | by Rachel Berkowitz, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

If you can uniformly break the symmetry of nanorod pairs in a colloidal solution, you’re a step ahead of the game toward achieving new and exciting metamaterial properties. But traditional thermodynamic-driven colloidal assembly of these metamaterials, which are materials defined by their non-naturally-occurring properties, often result in structures with high degree of symmetries in the bulk material.

3-D metamaterials with a natural bent

October 24, 2014 8:44 am | News | Comments

Scientists have been able to manufacture 3-D isotropic metamaterials, but up to now only on a very small scale. Now, in a significant breakthrough, scientists from RIKEN, in collaboration with colleagues in Taiwan, have succeeded in creating a large metamaterial up to 4-mm-square in size that is essentially isotropic, using a type of metamaterial element called a split-ring resonator.

Magnetic mirrors enable new technologies by reflecting light in uncanny ways

October 16, 2014 10:18 am | News | Comments

As in Alice’s journey through the looking-glass to Wonderland, mirrors in the real world can sometimes behave in surprising and unexpected ways, including a new class of mirror that works like no other. Scientists have demonstrated, for the first time, a new type of mirror that forgoes a familiar shiny metallic surface and instead reflects infrared light by using an unusual magnetic property of a non-metallic metamaterial.

Tailored flexible illusion coatings hide objects from detection

October 13, 2014 10:53 am | News | Comments

Developing the cloak of invisibility would be wonderful, but sometimes simply making an object appear to be something else will do the trick, according to Penn State Univ. engineers. To do this, they employ what they call "illusion coatings," which are made of a thin flexible substrate with copper patterns designed to create the desired result. The metamaterial coatings can function normally while appearing as something else.

“Squid skin” metamaterials project yields vivid color display

September 16, 2014 7:41 am | by Jade Boyd, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

The quest to create artificial “squid skin”—camouflaging metamaterials that can “see” colors and automatically blend into the background—is one step closer to reality, thanks to a breakthrough color-display technology unveiled by Rice Univ. The new full-color display technology uses aluminum nanoparticles to create the vivid red, blue and green hues found in today’s top-of-the-line LCD televisions and monitors.

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Engineers take step toward photonic circuits

August 20, 2014 8:35 am | by Richard Cairney, Univ. of Alberta | News | Comments

The invention of fiber optics revolutionized the way we share information, allowing us to transmit data at volumes and speeds we’d only previously dreamed of. Now, electrical engineering researchers at the Univ. of Alberta are breaking another barrier, designing nano-optical cables small enough to replace the copper wiring on computer chips.

Bottling up sound waves

August 4, 2014 3:23 pm | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

There’s a new wave of sound on the horizon carrying with it a broad scope of tantalizing potential applications, including advanced ultrasonic imaging and therapy, and acoustic cloaking, levitation and particle manipulation. Researchers with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have developed a technique for generating acoustic bottles in open air that can bend the paths of sound waves along prescribed convex trajectories.

Building invisible materials with light

July 28, 2014 7:51 am | News | Comments

A new method of building materials using light, developed by researchers at the Univ. of Cambridge, could one day enable technologies that are often considered the realm of science fiction. Although cloaked starships won’t be a reality for quite some time, the technique which researchers have developed for constructing materials with building blocks a few nanometers across can be used to control the way that light flies through them.

New nonlinear metamaterial is a million times better than traditional options

July 2, 2014 3:48 pm | News | Comments

Nonlinear optical materials are widely used in laser systems, but they require high light intensity and long propagation to be effective. A team in Germany and Texas has designed a new 400-nm thick nonlinear mirror that delivers frequency-doubled output using input light intensity as small as that of a laser pointer. Compared to traditional nonlinear materials, the new option offers a million times increase in nonlinear optical response.

New NIST metamaterial gives light a one-way ticket

July 2, 2014 11:58 am | News | Comments

The light-warping structures known as metamaterials have a new trick in their ever-expanding repertoire. Researchers at NIST have built a silver, glass and chromium nanostructure that can all but stop visible light cold in one direction while giving it a pass in the other. The device could someday play a role in optical information processing and in novel biosensing devices.

Researchers develop new ultra-light, ultra-stiff 3-D printed materials

June 19, 2014 4:11 pm | by Kenneth Ma, LLNL | News | Comments

Imagine a material with the same weight and density as aerogel—a material so light it's called “frozen smoke”—but with 10,000 times more stiffness. This material could have a profound impact on the aerospace and automotive industries as well as other applications where lightweight, high-stiffness and high-strength materials are needed.

Advance brings “hyperbolic metamaterials” closer to reality

May 12, 2014 3:21 pm | News | Comments

Optical metamaterials harness clouds of electrons called surface plasmons to manipulate and control light. However, plasmonic devices often use gold or silver, which is incompatible with CMOS manufacturing processes. Purdue Univ. scientists have now developed an ultra-thin crystalline superlattice that instead uses metal-dielectrics. Applied using epitaxy, this “hyperbolic” film could greatly expand applications for metamaterials.

Genetic approach helps design broadband metamaterial

May 6, 2014 7:58 am | by A'ndrea Elyse Messer, Penn State Univ. | News | Comments

A specially formed material that can provide custom broadband absorption in the infrared can be identified and manufactured using "genetic algorithms," according to Penn State Univ. engineers, who say these metamaterials can shield objects from view by infrared sensors, protect instruments and be manufactured to cover a variety of wavelengths.

High-temperature plasmonics eyed for solar, computer innovation

April 18, 2014 8:09 am | by Emil Venere, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

New plasmonic metamaterials that operate at high temperatures could radically improve solar cell performance and bring advanced computer data storage technology that uses heat to record information on a magnetic disk. The materials could make it possible to harness clouds of electrons called surface plasmons to manipulate and control light.

Researchers develop first phononic crystal that can be altered in real time

April 1, 2014 8:56 am | News | Comments

Using an acoustic metadevice that can influence the acoustic space and can control any of the ways in which waves travel, engineers have demonstrated, for the first time, that it is possible to dynamically alter the geometry of a 3-D colloidal crystal in real time. The crystals designed in the study, called metamaterials, are artificially structured materials that extend the properties of naturally occurring materials and compounds.  

Rainbow-catching waveguide could revolutionize energy technologies

March 28, 2014 11:50 am | by Cory Nealon, Univ. at Buffalo | News | Comments

More efficient photovoltaic cells. Improved radar and stealth technology. A new way to recycle waste heat generated by machines into energy. All may be possible due to breakthrough photonics research at the Univ. at Buffalo. The work explores the use of a nanoscale microchip component called a “multilayered waveguide taper array” that improves the chip’s ability to trap and absorb light.

Ultra-thin light detectors combine two very different technologies

March 27, 2014 9:36 am | News | Comments

Until now, it has been hard to couple light generation into layered semiconductor systems. Scientists in Austria have recently solved this problem using metamaterials, which are able to manipulate light in the terahertz range due to their special microscopic structure. This represents the first combination of metamaterials and quantum cascade structures.  

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