For more than 10 years, Guoliang Huang, the Huber and Helen Croft Chair in Engineering at the University of Missouri, has been investigating the unconventional properties of metamaterials – an artificial material that exhibits properties not commonly found in nature as defined by Newton’s laws of motion — in his long-term pursuit of designing an ideal metamaterial.

Huang’s goal is to help control the “elastic” energy waves traveling through larger structures — such as an aircraft — without light and small “metastructures.”

“For many years I’ve been working on the challenge of how to use mathematical mechanics to solve engineering problems,” Huang said. “Conventional methods have many limitations, including size and weight. So, I’ve been exploring how we can find an alternative solution using a lightweight material that’s small but can still control the low-frequency vibration coming from a larger structure, like an aircraft.”

Now, Huang’s one step closer to his goal. In a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences ("Active metamaterials for realizing odd mass density"), Huang and colleagues have developed a prototype metamaterial that uses electrical signals to control both the direction and intensity of energy waves passing through a solid material.

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