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A coating that can hide objects in plain sight, or an implant that behaves exactly like bone tissue—these extraordinary objects are already made from "metamaterials." Researchers from TU Delft have now developed an AI tool that not only can discover such extraordinary materials but also makes them fabrication-ready and durable. This makes it possible to create devices with unprecedented functionalities. They have published their findings in Advanced Materials.
The properties of normal materials, such as stiffness and flexibility, are determined by the molecular composition of the material, but the properties of metamaterials are determined by the geometry of the structure from which they are built. Researchers design these structures digitally and then have it 3D-printed. The resulting metamaterials can exhibit unnatural and extreme properties. Researchers have, for instance, designed metamaterials that, despite being solid, behave like a fluid.
"Traditionally, designers use the materials available to them to design a new device or a machine. The problem with that is that the range of available material properties is limited. Some properties that we would like to have just don't exist in nature. Our approach is: tell us what you want to have as properties and we engineer an appropriate material with those properties. What you will then get is not really a material but something in-between a structure and a material, a metamaterial," says Professor Amir Zadpoor of the Department of Biomechanical Engineering.