Chinese scientists create metamaterial black hole

Oct 16, 2009 by Lin Edwards weblog
(a) A model of black hole composed of a gradient-index metamaterial shell and a lossy dielectric core. (b) Photograph of the fabricated artificial black hole based on metamaterials, which is composed of 60 concentric layers, with the ELC structures in the core layers and the I-shaped structures in the shell layers. Image (c) Qiang Cheng, arXiv paper.

(PhysOrg.com) -- Two physicists in China have used metamaterials to create the first artificial electromagnetic black hole. The scientists, Qiang Cheng and Tie Jun Cui from the Southeast University in Nanjing, China created the tiny black hole in their laboratory, in an experiment that aimed to simulate a black hole.

A black hole is a region from which no light can escape. In space, according to , are formed when the space becomes distorted by a large mass, preventing light from escaping its , but any region from which no light escapes is a black hole.

The scientists exploited the special properties of metamaterials to create their mini black hole for microwave frequencies. Metamaterials are a class of ordered composites with properties not usually seen in nature. They are known to distort light, and have already been used to create invisibility cloaks that can steer light around an object. The Chinese scientists used their metamaterial to distort microwaves to the extent that those entering cannot escape.

The electromagnetic black hole was built from 60 strips of printed circuit boards coated with a thin layer of copper and arranged in concentric circles. The outer 40 strips form the shell, while the inner strips form the core. Intricate patterns were etched in the copper that alternately resonated and did not resonate at microwave frequency, and which changed progressively from strip to strip.

The scientists measured microwaves going into the device, and found none coming out. The microwaves entering the shell are trapped and guided towards the core, where they are absorbed in all directions equally because of the circular symmetry. The energy absorbed is emitted as heat.

The current device works only with microwaves, but they are aiming to develop a black hole for visible light next. This is more difficult because the of visible light is much smaller than microwaves, which means the etched structures must also be much reduced in size. Tie Jun Cui said he expected the visible light black hole to be demonstrated later this year.

An artificial black hole could find practical uses in harvesting light for solar cells, and this could mean solar energy could be harvested even in places with diffuse sunlight.

More information: An electromagnetic black hole made of metamaterials, arXiv:0910.2159v1 [physics.optics]

© 2009 PhysOrg.com

Explore further: Scientists discover novel metamaterial properties within hexagonal boron nitride

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eurekalogic
3 / 5 (2) Oct 16, 2009
The title terrified me but the reality is tantilizing when you find out its not a true black hole but something that has one its appearances.
Yes
3 / 5 (2) Oct 16, 2009
A black hole for light then?
A circular fiber glass cable. The light can get coupled in and can't get out because of the cladding core dispersion.
Finally the light will dissipate in heat I suppose.
kasen
3.5 / 5 (6) Oct 16, 2009
It's just a fancy lens, really. By their logic, anything painted black would be treated as a singularity. I don't see how it could make any important difference in solar power applications, either. Mirrors and lens are way cheaper.

Still, it's a step forward in meta-material research.
antialias
5 / 5 (5) Oct 16, 2009
Might be interesting to see what happens if yo could keep the microwaves circling within the central region. Might be interesting to see what happens if you keep pumping energy into it. If the metametrial is up to it you could realize fantastic energy densities at the central region. (Fusion initiation, anyone?)
wiyosaya
4 / 5 (4) Oct 16, 2009
I read an article with perhaps the last year that stated that someone had succeeded in recirculating light in a ring-like construct where it would recirculate for very long durations. Effectively, it sounded like a "light capacitor."

This research sounds like it is the microwave version of the perfect absorber - much like the work being done at the University of Rochester with visible light.

However, I think "black hole" is a dramatic misnomer.
Telperion
1 / 5 (1) Oct 16, 2009
It's more a step towards cloaking materials.
gmurphy
1 / 5 (3) Oct 16, 2009
it's a little more than a fancy lens, all sorts of interesting quantum effects are supposed to happen around the boundary of a black hole, Hawkings theory of infrared radiation from Black Holes depends on it, this metamaterial should provide a testable platform for this theoretical phenomenon
Sean_W
3.4 / 5 (5) Oct 16, 2009
The term "black hole" may, in physics jargon refer to any region from which light can not escape but in less formal, popular yet scientifically minded parlence it would refer only to gravitational black holes and things like this would be considered black hole analoges or something. I might be picking nits but I think it would be useful to keep the term "black hole" itself somewhat distinct due to people's nervousness about tiny black holes (even though they probably pose no threat due to their short life and high outward Hawking radiation output that would probably keep them from contacting local matter).

The research sounds interesting though and could provide new opportunities for experimentation.
Alexa
3 / 5 (2) Oct 16, 2009
..Two physicists in China have used metamaterials to create the first artificial electromagnetic black hole..
Such black hole isn't first of its kind, because similar Berkeley Lab research was presented at PhysOrg already before few months. As such it should be visible in "Related stories" section definitelly...

http://www.physor...869.html
latersville
3.7 / 5 (3) Oct 16, 2009
My dryer's lint trap can prevent lint from escaping, so I guess Kenmore Blackhole appliances will be all the new rage.
Alexa
Oct 16, 2009
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
kasen
1 / 5 (1) Oct 17, 2009
The term "black hole" may, in physics jargon refer to any region from which light can not escape but in less formal, popular yet scientifically minded parlence it would refer only to gravitational black holes


Actually, I think it's the other way around.

This thing doesn't emit Hawking radiation, for crying out loud. It just absorbs microwaves and emits heat. A pizza in a microwave oven does the same, the difference being that this metamaterial do-hickey is 100% efficient at it.
E_L_Earnhardt
3 / 5 (4) Oct 17, 2009
Criticism of emerging technology in some circles can ENDANGER LIVES! Please be restrained!
zevkirsh
not rated yet Oct 17, 2009
if heat is dissipating then that means electromagnetic radiation is escaping. light is a form of this. so are microwaves. black hole is a total misnomer. singularity is preferable.
tkjtkj
1 / 5 (1) Oct 17, 2009
re: Sean W :
The term "black hole" may, in physics jargon refer to any region from which light can not escape but in less formal, popular yet scientifically minded parlence it would refer only to gravitational black holes and things like this would be considered black hole analoges or something.


well, ya, otherwise my microwave oven might swallow the earth when i only intend it to warm my burger..
nuge
1 / 5 (1) Oct 18, 2009
How about the analog of a white hole? You could make a handy little freezer, or a nice dark place to sleep, or a gamma ray shield, depending on the frequency.
Skepticus
not rated yet Oct 18, 2009
The scientists measured microwaves going into the device, and found none coming out. The microwaves entering the shell are trapped and guided towards the core, where they are absorbed in all directions equally because of the circular symmetry. The energy absorbed is emitted as heat.


Seems like an another possible way (when developed) to make a heat source using EMR from the ambient air..!
takanis
2.5 / 5 (2) Oct 19, 2009
the poor guy who wrote this article clearly confuses "black hole" with "black body".
KBK
1 / 5 (2) Oct 19, 2009
It's just a fancy lens, really. By their logic, anything painted black would be treated as a singularity. I don't see how it could make any important difference in solar power applications, either. Mirrors and lens are way cheaper.

Still, it's a step forward in meta-material research.


It's a controlled unidirectional shaped resonant reflector/pathway, dude. No absorption.

MASSIVE DIFFERENCE.

Do not mistake it for anything less than a ~VERY~ incredible device and achievement.

However, now that it has been 'realized', It might be possible for the more ardent 'ground-pounders' (read: Linear-minded limited-vision types..you know, the more outspoken naysayers)
to consider that military black ops skunkworks and other such groups have had such technology for a very long time.
kasen
3 / 5 (2) Oct 19, 2009
It's a controlled unidirectional shaped resonant reflector/pathway, dude.


Still not a spacetime singularity, dude.

Also, you can probably obtain the same effect with a larger apparatus made of classical materials. Or paint stuff black for a good approximation. You're not gonna get event horizons and Hawking evaporation either way, though. The evaporation would be quite an issue...

What it does isn't that incredible and doesn't have a lot of immediate applications, it's how it does it that's the really interesting thing. Meta-materials have been around for a relative while, now, there isn't a lot of new physics, but a crapload of engineering potential.

I just think one shouldn't get laymen's hopes high, or scare them, with words like 'cloaking device' or 'black hole'. The exception being the case where doing so nets more research money. That's OK with me.
RayCherry
1 / 5 (1) Oct 23, 2009
Next week they will have the version that starts emitting heat before the microwaves are applied.

"What is really going to make your mind boggle is, would you have broken the vase if I had not told you you were going to do it?"
weirmeir
Oct 24, 2009
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