For more than 10 years, Guoliang Huang, Huber and Helen Croft Chair of Engineering at the University of Missouri, has been researching the unconventional properties of “metamaterials”—artificial matter that exhibits properties uncommon in nature as defined by Newton. Laws of Motion – In his long-time quest to design the perfect metamaterial.
Huang’s goal is to help control the “elastic” energy waves traveling through larger structures – such as aircraft – without the light and small “metastatic structures”.
“For many years I have been working on the challenge of how to use mathematical mechanics to solve engineering problems,” said Huang. “Traditional methods have many limitations, including size and weight. So, I was exploring how we could find an alternative solution by using a material that is lightweight and small in size but still be able to control low-frequency vibrations coming from a larger structure, such as an aircraft.”
Now, Huang is one step closer to his goal. In a new study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), Huang and colleagues developed a metamaterial prototype that uses electrical signals to control the direction and intensity of energy waves passing through a solid.
Potential applications for its innovative design include military and commercial uses, such as controlling radar waves by directing them to scan a specific area for objects or managing vibrations caused by turbulence from an aircraft in flight.
“This metamaterial has a strange mass density,” Huang said. “So force and acceleration do not go in the same direction, providing us with an unconventional way to customize the design of an object’s structural dynamics, or properties to challenge Newton’s second law.”
Huang said this is the first physical realization of an individual’s mass density.
“For example, this metamaterial could be useful for monitoring the health of civil structures such as bridges and pipelines as active transducers by helping to identify any potential damage that may be difficult to see with the human eye.”
“Active Metamaterials for Achieving Single Cluster Density” is published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). Other MU contributors include Qian Wu, Xianchen Xu, Honghua Qian, Shaoyun Wang, Zheng Yan, and Hongbin Ma. Grants from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research and Office of Army Research funded the research.