Engineers and scientists at The University of Texas at Austin and the AMOLF institute in the Netherlands have invented the first mechanical metamaterials that easily transfer motion effortlessly in one direction while blocking it in the other, as described in a paper published on Feb. 13 in Nature. The material can be thought of as a mechanical one-way shield that blocks energy from coming in but easily transmits it going out the other side.
The researchers developed the first nonreciprocal mechanical materials using metamaterials, which are synthetic materials with properties that cannot be found in nature.
Breaking the symmetry of motion may enable greater control on mechanical systems and improved efficiency. These nonreciprocal metamaterials can potentially be used to realize new types of mechanical devices: for example, actuators (components of a machine that are responsible for moving or controlling a mechanism) and other devices that could improve energy absorption, conversion and harvesting, soft robotics and prosthetics.