Today we bring you the last topic of the 5 that we proposed in the entry of last year “The 5 trends in materials for 2019” and which we talked about again at the begining of this year in “7 Future Materials: Special 100 posts”: metamaterials.
Have you ever wanted to be invisible? Or stop listening annoying noises, but earplugs or earphones are never enough? Stay tuned because metamaterials can fulfill your wishes.
What are metamaterials?
Metamaterials are smart materials that have a wide range of properties and can be so different from each other that there isn’t a definition for them, although what they all have in common is that they are from an artificial origin. This means that they aren’t found in nature and have been created by people. Mini positive point for humans!
Apart from their artificial origin, metamaterials are characterized because they have unusual electromagnetic properties, coming from their structure and arrangement and not from their composition. This is similar to what happens with graphite, diamond and graphene, since they are all made of carbon, but due to their structure, they have very different properties.
One of the properties that can vary the metamaterials can be, for example, that the material has a negative refractive index. This makes these materials of great importance in optics and electromagnetism applications.
We know that with this explanation you will continue asking yourself, what does a metamaterial really do? Why is it going to be so important? The answer is easy, can make objects at certain wavelengths more visible or invisible.
For example, light has various components depending on its wavelength: ultraviolet, infrared, visible light, microwave, etc. If we create a fabric with metamaterials that covers an apple at the visible wavelength, it will disappear from our view and we will see what is on the other side. Imagine if we make a person or a building disappear!
Even so, these effects of preventing waves from striking objects don’t only occur with visible light, but can also be applied to the field of acoustics (invisible to ultrasound) or electromagnetism.
Fields of application
For now, there are already several prototypes of invisible clothing that have been released to the public, and although there is a certain distortion through the clothing, the truth is that the object they cover disappears and you can see what’s behind.
As you will understand, these applications have been very well received in the military sector, so the greatest advances in this field for now are a secret, although it is sure that little by little they are coming to the market with everyday devices or applications, such as in the deadlock of cars, where the driver could obtain full visibility of what is in front of him, thus reducing the risk of accidents and being run over by pedestrians.
In addition, the applications aren’t limited to being able to make objects disappear, but is also possible to achieve greater precision in measurements of optical, acoustic and electromagnetic elements , which is sure to revolutionize the market soon with better cameras, greater microprocessor capacity or higher resolution in ultrasound-based medical devices, among others.
As we have mentioned, metamaterials are still far from being able to reach the market in a generalized way, but it is true that they demonstrate with their unusual properties that the only limit in the development of applications is the imagination . For our part, we will closely follow the developments that occur with this type of material, since we are sure that they will catch great attention in the future.