Functional Surfaces: Light and Heat Manipulation by Intelligent Design
At META, we design and fabricate metamaterials and functional surfaces with advanced nanostructures. These structures are patterned in ways that manipulate light, heat and electromagnetic waves in unusual ways. Our advanced structural design technologies and scalable manufacturing methods provide a path to broad commercial opportunities in aerospace, medical, automotive, energy and other industries.
Controlling light, electricity and heat have played key roles in technological advancements throughout history. Advances in electrical and electromagnetic technologies, wireless communications, lasers, and computers have all been made possible by challenging our understanding of how light and other types of energy naturally behave, and how it is possible to manipulate them.
Over the past 20 years, techniques for producing nanostructures have matured, resulting in a wide range of ground-breaking solutions that can control light and heat on very small scales. Some of the areas of advancement that have contributed to these techniques are photonic crystals, nanolithography, plasmonic phenomena and nanoparticle manipulation. From these advances, a new branch of material science has emerged – metamaterials.
What are Metamaterials?
Metamaterials are composite structures, consisting of conventional materials such as metals and plastics, that are engineered by META scientists to exhibit new or enhanced properties relating to reflection, refraction, diffraction, filtering, conductance and other properties that have the potential for wide commercial application.
A metamaterial typically consists of a multitude of structured unit nano-cells that are comprised of multiple individual elements. These are referred to as meta-atoms. The individual elements are usually arranged in periodic patterns that, together, can manipulate light, heat or electromagnetic waves in almost magical ways.
How Metamaterials and Functional Surfaces Work
Development strategies for metamaterials and functional surfaces focus on structures that produce unusual and exotic electromagnetic properties by manipulating light in ways that has never been naturally possible. They gain their properties not as much from their composition as from their exactingly designed structures. The precise shape, geometry, size, orientation, and arrangement of these nanostructures affect the electromagnetic waves of light to create material properties that are not easily achievable with conventional materials.
Metamaterials attain their desired effects by incorporating structural elements of sub-wavelength sizes. These are smaller, even, than the length of the waves they affect.
“I can’t see what exactly would happen, but I can hardly doubt that when we have some control of the arrangement of things in the small scale, we will get an enormously greater range of possible properties that substances can have.” – – Richard Feynman, Theoretical Physicist, 1959.
Metamaterials have been increasingly researched in academic environments for the past 20 years. META, embracing Richard Feynman’s famous words, applies advanced structural design methods and scalable manufacturing technologies, to be at the forefront of the translation of multiple metamaterial technologies from the academic community to broad commercialization.