Metamaterials Make Physics Seem Like Magic

David Smith & Yaroslav Urzhumov
Duke University
Pratt School of Engineering
Durham, NC

Jeff Wilson
NASA Glen Research Center, Cleveland, OH

Fabio Alves and Gamani
Karunasiri
Naval Postgraduate School
Monterey, CA

Metamaterials are manufactured, structured materials that they can interact and manipulate wave phenomena such that objects surrounded by metamaterials are shielded from these waves. In the case of light, metamaterials make these objects ‘invisible’. Researchers throughout the world are applying these materials to many different applications.

At NASA Glen Research Center, physicists are currently working on potential applications for metamaterials, including a “superlens” that would provide much higher resolution than what is possible using natural materials, by utilizing the negative refraction of metamaterials.

Researchers at the Naval Postgraduate School in California are working with metamaterials in a metafilm for terahertz (THz) imaging technologies. Electromagnetic waves in the THz scale are commonly used in airport scanners as they can penetrate non-metallic materials without damaging tissue or DNA. Yet, they require expensive and complex imaging arrangements to combat the fact that most THz waves are absorbed in the air prior to reaching the target. The metafilm must be designed using the appropriate materials and geometry to attain near 100% transmission at the desired frequency.

At the Center for Metamaterials and Integrated Plasmonics (CMIP) at Duke University, led by David R. Smith, researchers are working with Toyota to use metamaterials for a wireless transfer of power in an electrical vehicle. They have accomplished this task by making the distance between the power source and the device disappear with a metamaterial-based lens.

All of these researchers used COMSOL Multiphsyics to implement, verify and optimize the designs. Further, they are using COMSOL to conceptually investigate new uses for metamaterials.

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