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Score another point for metamaterials. Researchers at North Carolina State University have designed complementary metamaterials that will aid medical professionals and engineers in diagnosing problems under the skin. These metamaterials are structured to account for so-called "aberrating layers" that block or distort the acoustic waves used in ultrasounds, making it possible to now conduct ultrasounds of a person's head or an airplane's wing – among other things. Read More
Imagine materials strong enough to use in building airplanes or motor cars, yet are literally lighter than air. Soon, that may not be so hard to do because a team of researchers from MIT and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) have developed new ultra-lightweight materials that are as light as aerogel, but 10,000 times stiffer, and may one day revolutionize aerospace and automotive designs. Read More
Anyone who’s ever needed a pair of thick eyeglasses has a firm idea that lenses are the one thing where form follows function. However, BAE Systems and Queen Mary’s School of Electronic Engineering and Computer Science in London have put paid to that idea with a flat lens that works like a conventional curved lens, yet without any reduction in bandwidth performance. Using a combination of composite metamaterials and transformational optics for the first time, they have created a lens that's able to bend electromagnetic waves, yet isn't bound by its shape for its function. Read More
Metamaterials are already being used to create invisibility cloaks and "temporal cloaks," but now engineers from Duke University have turned metamaterials to the task of creating a 3D acoustic cloak. In the same way that invisibility cloaks use metamaterials to reroute light around an object, the acoustic cloaking device interacts with sound waves to make it appear as if the device and anything hidden beneath it isn't there. Read More
Scientists at the University of Pennsylvania have grown liquid crystal flowers, making it possible to create lenses as complex as the compound eye of a dragonfly. When perfected, the technology could allow the growth of lenses on curved surfaces, and structures to be assembled out of liquid crystals to build new materials, smart surfaces, microlens arrays and advanced sensors. Read More
Holography is one of the more dramatic forms of photography, in which a three-dimensional image is stored on a photographic plate in the form of interference fringes. Researchers at Purdue University in Indiana have developed a different approach, in which a 3D image is stored in a structure of thousands of V-shaped nanoantennas etched into an ultrathin gold foil. The new approach dramatically shrinks the size of a hologram, potentially enabling photonic and plasmonic devices and optical switches small enough to be integrated into computer chips. Read More
Joining the ranks of devices designed to harvest energy from ambient electromagnetic radiation comes an electrical circuit from researchers at Duke University that can be tuned to capture microwave energy from various sources, including satellite, sound or Wi-Fi signals. The researchers say the device converts otherwise lost energy into direct current voltage with efficiencies similar to that of current solar cells. Read More
There are few things better than lazing around the house on a warm summer day, whose fragrant zephyrs speak of spicy isles and heaven-breathing groves.* At least, until the neighbors start their leaf-blowers and the city needs to tear up the sidewalks. Noise pollution is one of the scourges of urban and suburban life, which can drown out nature's melodies to cause annoyance, stress, and hearing loss. Now, however, a team of South Korean engineers has invented a remarkable window that lets air in while keeping a great deal of noise out. Read More
To make a Harry Potter-style invisibility cloak requires that the materials from which it is made have a negative refractive index over all optical wavelengths, from red to violet. However, the artificially-structured optical materials from which cloaks are made thus far have been restricted to a very narrow range of optical wavelengths, limiting their ability to cloak over a range of colors. That obstacle to progress ends now, as a group of Stanford optical engineers at Stanford has succeeded in designing a broadband metamaterial that exhibits a negative refractive index over nearly the entire rainbow. Read More
Invisibility cloaks have been around in various forms since 2006, when the first cloak based on optical metamaterials was demonstrated. The design of cloaking devices has come a long way in the past seven years, as illustrated by a simple, yet highly effective, radar cloak developed by Duke University Professor Yaroslav Urzhumov, that can be made using a hobby-level 3D printer. Read More