Sandia National Laboratories has created the first inverse-design software for optical metamaterials—meaning users start by describing the result they want, and the software fills in the steps to get there. The modern design approach takes guesswork out of engineering as-yet theoretical technologies like ultracompact, high-performance cameras and cloaking armor that could make wearers invisible to detection.
Sandia uses the design aid, called Mirage, in its research and development programs and released a test version to select collaborators last year. Now, researchers working on government metamaterial projects can request a license at no cost.
Man-made, optical metamaterials have been touted for more than a decade for their ability to manipulate light in extraordinary ways. In theory, satellite imaging and interstellar telescopes could be dramatically smaller with metamaterial lenses one hundred times thinner than conventional ones. Or, the technology could someday lead to cloaking materials that deflect light around them, rendering objects impossible to see.
Mirage simplifies and automates the design process for materials that would be necessary for those technologies.