Elastic waves captured and controlled says research team

Engineering researchers at the University of Missouri have developed a material that has the ability to control elastic waves and believe their technology might have a range of applications.

Sound waves passing through the air, ripples and shockwaves from earthquakes all are considered 'elastic' waves and travel at the surface or through a material without causing any permanent changes to that substance's makeup.

"Methods of controlling and manipulating subwavelength acoustic and elastic waves have proven elusive and difficult; however, the potential applications – once the methods are refined – are tremendous," said associate professor Guoliang Huang. "Our team has developed a material that, if used in the manufacture of new devices, could have the ability to sense sound and elastic waves. By manipulating these waves to our advantage, we would have the ability to create materials that could greatly benefit society– the possibilities truly are endless."

Prof Huang and his team used a single steel sheet on which lasers engraved chiral microstructure patterns asymmetrical to their mirror images. "In its current state," said Prof Huang, "the metal is passive; we need to introduce other elements that will help us control the elastic waves we send to it.

"We're going to make this material more active by integrating smart materials – like microchips – that are controllable. This will give us the ability to effectively 'tune in' to any elastic sound or elastic wave frequency and generate the responses we'd like."

Prof Huang believes there are numerous applications, including super resolution sensors, acoustic and medical hearing devices, as well as a 'superlens'.

Graham Pitcher

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