Metamaterials are a class of super-materials with remarkable characteristics. Metamaterials have been engineered to bend and shape light, providing an effective invisibility cloak.
A class known as left-handed metamaterials have been predicted to produce levitation via a repulsive force from the quantum vacuum:
“Left-handed metamaterials make perfect lenses that image classical electromagnetic fields with significantly higher resolution than the diffraction limit. Here, we consider the quantum physics of such devices. We show that the Casimir force of two conducting plates may turn from attraction to repulsion if a perfect lens is sandwiched between them. For optical left-handed metamaterials, this repulsive force of the quantum vacuum may levitate ultra-thin mirrors.” — Quantum Levitation by Left-Handed Metamaterials
In a recent feat of technological engineering, a collaborative research team have made a metamaterial that manipulate sound waves in astonishing ways: bending, shaping, and focuses sound waves.
Bruce Drinkwater, Professor of Ultrasonics at the University of Bristol, explained: “In the future I think there will be many exciting applications of this technology. We are now working on making the metamaterial layers dynamically reconfigurable. This will mean we can make cheap imaging systems which could be used either for medical diagnostics or crack detection.”
Controlling acoustic fields is crucial in diverse applications such as loudspeaker design, ultrasound imaging and therapy or acoustic particle manipulation. The current approaches use fixed lenses or expensive phased arrays. Here, using a process of analogue-to-digital conversion and wavelet decomposition, we develop the notion of quantal meta-surfaces. The quanta here are small, pre-manufactured three-dimensional units—which we call metamaterial bricks—each encoding a specific phase delay. These bricks can be assembled into meta-surfaces to generate any diffraction-limited acoustic field. We apply this methodology to show experimental examples of acoustic focusing, steering and, after stacking single meta-surfaces into layers, the more complex field of an acoustic tractor beam. We demonstrate experimentally single-sided air-borne acoustic levitation using meta-layers at various bit-rates: from a 4-bit uniform to 3-bit non-uniform quantization in phase. This powerful methodology dramatically simplifies the design of acoustic devices and provides a key-step towards realizing spatial sound modulators