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Metamaterials have properties that depend on their shape and architecture. Researchers at AMOLF, Leiden University and Tel Aviv University have found a new way of designing these metamaterials and their properties by deliberately incorporating small errors. They have published their results in Nature Physics.

What is the difference between a sheet of paper and a crumpled ball of paper? Both are made from the same material, but a sheet of paper is flat and floppy, while a crumpled ball is stiff and spherical. So crumpling up a sheet of paper, changes its properties. "We call paper a mechanical metamaterial: By changing its shape, the material acquires different properties," says Anne Meeussen. But how, exactly, does one change the shape to obtain peculiar properties?

The latest idea comes from a collaboration between AMOLF, Leiden University and Tel Aviv University. Anne Meeussen, Erdal Oğuz, Yair Shokef and Martin van Hecke investigated the deliberate incorporation of a small error in a material, a topological imperfection, to observe its effects. "We built a structure that shows peculiar behavior when it is pressed at not one, but two points. By doing that, you can steer forces and deformations to different locations. Such a material can be used for applications where internal forces and deformations must be coordinated. These range from shoe soles and protheses to soft robots."


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Category: Science
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