Metamaterials

BeckmanUCIThis versatile metamaterial, which bends light in unusual ways, could be used for more efficient light collection in solar cells (Credit: Caltech/Stanley Burgo)

Nothing better exemplifies the potential of nanoscience than metamaterials. These are conventional materials with nanostructures altered to achieve properties that are unknown or difficult to access in nature. Undoubtedly, the best known metamaterial application is the invisibility cloak. It uses metamaterials to change what happens when light reaches an object. Instead of scattering light, metamaterials direct light around the object the way a stream flows around a boulder, converging behind it so that it looks as if nothing is there. Metamaterials can also achieve a negative index of refraction, which enables them to reverse the apparent “bend” of a straw placed in water. These materials are used to create perfect lenses, flat metamaterials that eliminate the light distortion created by conventional curved lenses. As a result, such lenses can discern objects smaller than 200 nanometers, once considered the fundamental limit of resolution for visible light. Nearly all metamaterials consist of arrays of similar nanostructures that interact with light – and other types of electromagnetic radiation – in unusual ways. Varying the size and shape of the arrays enables researchers to tune their properties and the wavelengths at which they operate. Researchers have launched several startups that use these flexible materials to build low-cost radar for drones and autonomous cars, improved antennas, security sensors, medical imagers and solar cells.

Unnatural Selection: New Materials & Unusual Properties by Design

Feb 26, 2015

By changing the nanoscale structure of materials, researchers have created invisibility cloaks and microscopes with unprecedented resolution. Three leaders in these new metamaterials explain how this is possible and consider what may come next.

The Future of Nanoscience: Three Kavli Nanoscience Institute Directors Forecast the Field’s Future

Jan 09, 2015

The directors of three Kavli nanoscience institutes – Paul Alivisatos, Paul McEuen, and Nai-Chang Yeh – discuss what makes the nanoscale so important, the field’s grand challenges, safety challenges, and their thoughts on funding, training and the future.

Frontiers in Nanoscience

The molecular abacus. (Courtesy of Jim Gimzewski, University of California at Los Angeles)
Jun 25, 2007

In the 21st century, scientists will not only use molecules as building blocks for creating vital new technologies, but possibly as the basis for creating synthetic life.

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