Mechanical metamaterials can have their rigidity tuned, offering a new approach to soft robotics
Metamaterials seem like a technology out of science fiction. Because of the way these materials affect electromagnetic phenomena and physical attributes of materials, they can render objects invisible, leaving the observer in disbelief.
While invisibility cloaks are a gee-whiz application, metamaterials now offer real-world commercial applications such as new antenna technologies for mobile phones. To get to the point where metamaterials are not just a curiosity, but also a viable commercial technology, they have had to evolve a new set of tricks .
One example is the work of a team of researchers from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) and the University of California San Diego (UCSD). They have used so-called mechanical metamaterials—which exhibit unique mechanical properties that do not exist in nature—to create a novel material that can change from rigid to flexible in response to a magnetic field. The researchers expect this new material could usher in new approaches to smart wearables and soft robotics.
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