Research pair theorize metamaterials that exhibit negative compressibility transitions

May 23, 2012 by Bob Yirka report
Negative compressibility contrasted with other effects. Image (c) Nature Materials (2012) doi:10.1038/nmat3331

( -- In the real world of so called “normal” materials, people expect certain things to occur as a result of certain actions. Covering an object with a cloak for example, should hide the object, but the cloak should still be visible (or vice-versa), or if you push or sit on a couch cushion, it should contract. Lately though, new science has been changing our perception of how materials should behave. For example, recent research into metamaterials; materials that aren’t normally found in nature, has been turning some of what we see as normal, on its head. The development of cloaking devices that hide objects and are themselves invisible, is one example.

Now, two researchers Zachary Nicolaou and Adilson Motter, from Northwestern University have proposed another material that doesn’t behave the way we’ve come to expect. They are proposing a metamaterial that reacts contrary to the expected norm, to pressure. When pushed on, it expands, when pulled, it contracts. The two have written a paper describing how such a matermaterial could be made and have had it published in the journal Nature Materials.

While such a material might seem contrary to the laws of nature, the two explain how a metamaterial could be made that actually exploits such laws, rather than changes them. They suggest that if a material were constructed out of a row of four, as yet undetermined elements, where each was made of groups of molecules that are attracted to one another, then, if a force was applied to the inner particles that would be weak enough such that pulling on the metamaterial would cause those bonds to break, then the outer particles would become more strongly attracted to one another, causing compression. If on the other hand the material is squeezed, the inner particles would be brought closer together strengthening those bonds, causing the material to expand.

The two have not yet made an actual metamaterial that exhibits such behavior, but it’s not difficult to see how it could be put to practical use if real ones are constructed; in fact, it’s not a far cry from the properties of the shield Captain America uses to ward off violent attacks. Military vehicles with such a material could expand out when driving over an IED, for example, preventing injury to occupants or car cushions could be fashioned creating perhaps, the smoothest ride ever.

Explore further: World's most complex crystal simulated

More information: Mechanical metamaterials with negative compressibility transitions, Nature Materials (2012) doi:10.1038/nmat3331

When tensioned, ordinary materials expand along the direction of the applied force. Here, we explore network concepts to design metamaterials exhibiting negative compressibility transitions, during which a material undergoes contraction when tensioned (or expansion when pressured). Continuous contraction of a material in the same direction of an applied tension, and in response to this tension, is inherently unstable. The conceptually similar effect we demonstrate can be achieved, however, through destabilizations of (meta)stable equilibria of the constituents. These destabilizations give rise to a stress-induced solid–solid phase transition associated with a twisted hysteresis curve for the stress–strain relationship. The strain-driven counterpart of negative compressibility transitions is a force amplification phenomenon, where an increase in deformation induces a discontinuous increase in response force. We suggest that the proposed materials could be useful for the design of actuators, force amplifiers, micromechanical controls, and protective devices.

Press release

Related Stories

Researchers create “antimagnet” cloaking device

Aug 05, 2011

In what seems like one new cloaking device being discovered after another, researchers in Spain have modeled a device that they say can prevent magnetism from leaking out of a containment container and also prevent it from ...

Scientists create first free-standing 3-D cloak

Jan 26, 2012

Researchers in the US have, for the first time, cloaked a three-dimensional object standing in free space, bringing the much-talked-about invisibility cloak one step closer to reality.

Recommended for you

Finding faster-than-light particles by weighing them

Dec 26, 2014

In a new paper accepted by the journal Astroparticle Physics, Robert Ehrlich, a recently retired physicist from George Mason University, claims that the neutrino is very likely a tachyon or faster-than-light par ...

Controlling core switching in Pac-man disks

Dec 24, 2014

Magnetic vortices in thin films can encode information in the perpendicular magnetization pointing up or down relative to the vortex core. These binary states could be useful for non-volatile data storage ...

World's most complex crystal simulated

Dec 24, 2014

The most complicated crystal structure ever produced in a computer simulation has been achieved by researchers at the University of Michigan. They say the findings help demonstrate how complexity can emerge ...

Atoms queue up for quantum computer networks

Dec 24, 2014

In order to develop future quantum computer networks, it is necessary to hold a known number of atoms and read them without them disappearing. To do this, researchers from the Niels Bohr Institute have developed ...

New video supports radiation dosimetry audits

Dec 23, 2014

The National Physical Laboratory (NPL), working with the National Radiotherapy Trials Quality Assurance Group, has produced a video guide to support physicists participating in radiation dosimetry audits.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.