This website uses cookies primarily for visitor analytics. Certain pages will ask you to fill in contact details to receive additional information. On these pages you have the option of having the site log your details for future visits. Indicating you want the site to remember your details will place a cookie on your device. To view our full cookie policy, please click here. You can also view it at any time by going to our Contact Us page.

Newton’s motion laws meet their match with novel smart material

22 May 2023

A game-changing prototype ‘metamaterial’ wields electrical signals to command both the direction and intensity of energy waves passing through a solid material, paving the way for transformative applications in military, commercial, and aerospace.

Image: Eric Stann/University of Missouri
Image: Eric Stann/University of Missouri

In the world of engineering, pushing the boundaries of what is possible is a constant pursuit. For more than a decade, Guoliang Huang, the Huber and Helen Croft Chair in Engineering at the University of Missouri, has been delving into the realm of ‘metamaterials’ – artificial materials that possess properties not commonly found in nature as defined by Newton's laws of motion. Huang is on a mission to design the ideal metamaterial. 

Huang's vision is to help control the ‘elastic’ energy waves travelling through larger structures (such as an aircraft), without light and small ‘metastructures’.

"For many years, I've been working on the challenge of how to use mathematical mechanics to solve engineering problems," Huang said. "Conventional methods have many limitations, including size and weight. 

“So, I've been exploring how we can find an alternative solution using a lightweight material that's small but can still control the low-frequency vibration coming from a larger structure, like an aircraft."

Now, Huang's one step closer to achieving this aim. In a new study, Huang and colleagues have developed a prototype metamaterial that uses electrical signals to control both the direction and intensity of energy waves passing through a solid material.

Potential applications of his innovative design include military and commercial uses, such as controlling radar waves by directing them to scan a specific area for objects or managing vibration created by air turbulence from an aircraft in flight.

The potential applications of this groundbreaking design are far-reaching and diverse, from military to commercial. For example, it could be used to control radar waves by directing them to scan a specific area for objects. Alternatively, it could be used to manage the vibrations induced by air turbulence during flight – a crucial aspect of aircraft design. 

"This metamaterial has odd mass density," Huang said. "So, the force and acceleration are not going in the same direction, thereby providing us with an unconventional way to customise the design of an object's structural dynamics, or properties to challenge Newton's second law."

This is the first physical realisation of odd mass density, Huang said.

"For instance, this metamaterial could be beneficial to monitor the health of civil structures such as bridges and pipelines as active transducers by helping identify any potential damage that might be hard to see with the human eye."

More information...

Print this page | E-mail this page