Metamaterials for Decarbonisation

Detailed overview of innovation with sample startups and prominent university research

What it is

Metamaterials are artificially engineered materials that exhibit properties not found in naturally occurring materials. These properties arise from their unique structure, which is designed at the subwavelength scale to manipulate electromagnetic waves, sound waves, or other forms of energy in ways that are not possible with conventional materials.

Impact on climate action

Metamaterials for Decarbonization within Advanced Materials revolutionize climate action by enabling novel energy-efficient technologies. By manipulating light and heat, these materials enhance energy harvesting, storage, and transmission, leading to reduced carbon emissions, increased renewable energy utilization, and accelerated progress towards a sustainable and low-carbon future.

Underlying
Technology

  • Subwavelength Structures: Metamaterials are composed of repeating unit cells, or meta-atoms, that are smaller than the wavelength of the energy they interact with. This allows for precise control over the propagation of waves through the material.
  • Electromagnetic and Acoustic Properties: Metamaterials can be designed to exhibit a wide range of electromagnetic and acoustic properties, such as negative refractive index, perfect absorption, and cloaking.
  • Design and Fabrication: Metamaterials are typically fabricated using advanced manufacturing techniques, such as lithography, 3D printing, and self-assembly.

TRL : 4-7 (depending on the specific metamaterial and application)

Prominent Innovation themes

  • Metamaterials for Electromagnetic Cloaking: Researchers are developing metamaterials that can bend electromagnetic waves around an object, effectively making it invisible to certain wavelengths of light or radar.
  • Metamaterials for Perfect Absorption: Metamaterials can be designed to absorb nearly all incident electromagnetic radiation at specific frequencies, with applications in solar energy harvesting and stealth technology.
  • Metamaterials for Acoustic Control: Metamaterials can manipulate sound waves, enabling applications such as soundproofing, noise cancellation, and acoustic cloaking.
  • Metamaterials for Sensing and Imaging: Metamaterials can be used to create highly sensitive sensors and imaging devices with improved resolution and sensitivity.
  • Tunable Metamaterials: Researchers are developing metamaterials with properties that can be dynamically tuned, allowing for greater flexibility and control over their behavior.

Other Innovation Subthemes

  • Advanced Manufacturing Techniques
  • Electromagnetic Cloaking Applications
  • Perfect Absorption Technologies
  • Acoustic Manipulation Methods
  • Sensing and Imaging Devices
  • Dynamic Tuning Capabilities
  • Satellite Communication Antennas
  • Aerospace Applications
  • Defense Innovations
  • Consumer Electronics Utilization
  • Novel Material Designs
  • Optics and Photonics Exploration
  • Energy Harvesting Solutions
  • Soundproofing Innovations
  • Noise Cancellation Techniques
  • Medical Imaging Advancements
  • Stealth Technology Development

Sample Global Startups and Companies

  • Kymeta:
    • Technology Enhancement: Kymeta focuses on metamaterial-based antenna technology for satellite communication and connectivity. Their antennas use metamaterials to electronically steer beams without moving parts, enabling high-speed, broadband connectivity on the move.
    • Uniqueness of the Startup: Kymeta’s metamaterial antennas offer lightweight, low-profile, and electronically steerable solutions for mobile communication, including vehicles, maritime vessels, and aircraft. Their technology revolutionizes satellite communication with improved performance and flexibility.
    • End-User Segments Addressing: Kymeta serves various sectors requiring mobile connectivity, including transportation, defense, emergency response, and remote operations. Their antennas are used in vehicles, ships, planes, and portable communication terminals worldwide.
  • Metamaterial Technologies Inc. (MTI):
    • Technology Enhancement: MTI develops metamaterial-based optical filters and smart materials for applications in aerospace, defense, healthcare, and consumer electronics. Their technology enables light manipulation and control for enhanced performance and functionality.
    • Uniqueness of the Startup: MTI’s metamaterial solutions offer novel capabilities for light management, including spectral filtering, polarization control, and thermal regulation. Their materials find applications in diverse industries, from aerospace to healthcare, for improved performance and efficiency.
    • End-User Segments Addressing: MTI caters to industries requiring advanced optical solutions, including aerospace and defense, automotive, healthcare, and consumer electronics. Their products are used in imaging systems, sensors, displays, and optical communications.
  • Evolv Technology:
    • Technology Enhancement: Evolv Technology develops metamaterial-based sensors and security screening systems for detecting concealed threats in high-traffic environments. Their sensors use metamaterials to enhance detection capabilities while reducing false alarms.
    • Uniqueness of the Startup: Evolv’s metamaterial sensors offer high-throughput, low-impact screening solutions for security checkpoints in venues such as airports, stadiums, and public spaces. Their technology improves security without compromising operational efficiency or passenger experience.
    • End-User Segments Addressing: Evolv Technology serves industries requiring high-throughput security screening, including transportation, entertainment, hospitality, and critical infrastructure. Their systems are deployed in airports, event venues, corporate campuses, and government facilities worldwide.

Sample Research At Top-Tier Universities

  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT):
    • Research Focus: MIT is a leader in research on metamaterials, focusing on designing and fabricating materials with unique electromagnetic properties not found in naturally occurring substances.
    • Uniqueness: Their research often involves the manipulation of structures at the nanoscale to control the behavior of light, sound, and other wave phenomena, enabling unprecedented control over wave propagation and interaction.
    • End-use Applications: MIT’s work has diverse applications in optics, telecommunications, sensing, and imaging. For example, they’re developing metamaterial-based lenses for ultrahigh-resolution microscopy, cloaking devices for stealth technology, and compact antennas for wireless communication systems.
  • Imperial College London:
    • Research Focus: Imperial College London conducts cutting-edge research on metamaterials, exploring their applications in areas such as acoustics, photonics, and medical imaging.
    • Uniqueness: They are known for their work on active and tunable metamaterials, which can dynamically adjust their properties in response to external stimuli, as well as for their efforts to translate metamaterial research into practical devices and systems.
    • End-use Applications: Imperial’s research finds applications in healthcare, aerospace, and renewable energy. For instance, they’re investigating metamaterial-based acoustic lenses for medical ultrasound imaging and metamaterial structures for enhancing the performance of solar cells and photodetectors.
  • California Institute of Technology (Caltech):
    • Research Focus: Caltech’s research on metamaterials spans fundamental studies of wave physics and materials science, as well as the development of novel metamaterial architectures and fabrication techniques.
    • Uniqueness: Their research often involves exploring exotic wave phenomena, such as negative refraction, cloaking, and superlensing, enabled by the unique properties of metamaterials.
    • End-use Applications: Caltech’s work has applications in nanophotonics, quantum optics, and information technology. For example, they’re researching metamaterial-based devices for manipulating light at the nanoscale, as well as metasurfaces for controlling the phase and amplitude of light waves for applications in imaging and sensing.

commercial_img Commercial Implementation

Metamaterials are being implemented in various commercial applications, including:

  • Satellite Communications: Metamaterial-based antennas are used in satellite communications systems to improve performance and reduce size and weight.
  • Optical Filters and Sensors: Metamaterials are used in optical filters and sensors to achieve specific optical properties and enhance sensitivity.
  • Medical Imaging: Metamaterials are being explored for use in medical imaging technologies, such as MRI and ultrasound, to improve image resolution and contrast.