Return of the Metamaterials

Keaton Nemes Blog Post 6

In recent studies conducted by UC San Diego Nanoengineered Photonics Group, Metamaterials were again at the forefront of research and development. However, unlike the Metamaterial researched by the Hass0-Plattner Institute which focused on the physical structure of a Metamaterial, the Photonics Group was exploring how light can be used to influence a Metamaterial’s mechanical porperties.

Metamaterials are defined as, “artificial materials that are engineered to exhibit exotic properties not found in nature.” (Science Daily) More specifically, the researchets from San Diego designed a Metamaterial that is able to absorb light and convert the energy into heat through the material’s resonance. Metamaterials tend to not be especially efficient in transforming energy without considerable loss. In this case, however, the lost energy is through output of heat which could be a very valuable trait in a material. As of right now the Metamaterial only responds to laser light, but the research team is confident they will be able to tweak the nanoantennas to be able to absorb a larger range of light and still produce thermal energy.

A question that immediately came up while reading this article was how does this material compare to solar cells and  thermal mass. Both of these techniques are widely used in buildings already, could this Metamaterial compete with these already reputable passive techniques? At its current scale the Metamaterial is impractical  for large scale designs, however, if this nanotech could be applied to a material already in use, this type of passive energy could be extremely useful in achieving a sustainable design.

Metamaterials have commonly been understood as nanotech, however, with various research being conducted on these materials the practical applications of these materials at large scale is growing and could prove to be power players in the future of sustainable and regenerative design.

Citation:

University of California – San Diego. “Metamaterial uses light to control its motion.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 October 2016. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/10/161010134750.htm>.

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