Metamaterials can be the first step into Potter world

Metamaterials are Potter head elements

Metamaterials can be the first step into Potter world

Our mundane souls are tired from praying for J.K. Rowling’s world to be real – magic wands, invisible cloaks, flying brooms, moving paintings, but most of all a Hogwarts. Pray no more because Yongmin Liu, a professor at Northeastern University has found just the thing- Metamaterials.


Dobby is free! All you Potter heads get ready for your own invisible cloak from Potter world.


A metamaterial is an artificially structured material that exhibits extraordinary electromagnetic properties not available or not easily obtainable  from nature. Scientists create this artificially engineered material by combining multiple elements from composite materials such as metal and dielectric.


In other words, to induce the property of invisibility in a metamaterial, it needs certain modifications. Specifically, the material would need to be so designed that it could control how light moves around an object without being reflected or absorbed. It seems like a long shot, but it is possible. However, it highly requires just the right material with just the right structure. Light is electromagnetic radiation, made up of perpendicular vibrations of electric and magnetic fields. Natural materials usually only affect the electric component – this is what is behind the optics that we’re all familiar with such as ordinary refraction.  However, metamaterials can affect the magnetic component too, expanding the range of interactions that are possible. The metamaterials used in attempts to make invisibility cloaks are made up of a lattice with the spacing between elements less than the wavelength of the light we wish to ‘bend’.


But Liu has developed a new method for quickly discovering materials that have desirable qualities, such as invisibility. In a paper published recently in ACS Nano, Liu and his co-authors describe a machine learning algorithm they developed and trained to identify new metamaterial structures. The new method is much faster and more accurate than previous approaches, paving the way for engineers to design next-generation materials. This algorithm was trained with a data set of 30,000 different samples, each representing a specific relationship between a metamaterial structure and corresponding optical property. Once the algorithm learned those relationships, it was able to predict new ones.

Liu is interested in finding a material capable of 100 percent light absorption to create more efficient solar panels. “With this algorithm, we can design new metamaterial properties on demand,” said Liu, an assistant professor of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering. “These novel optical materials will serve as the foundation for a variety of functional devices.”

But how far is Liu sure of this algorithm? Though Liu is tremendously sure that his algorithm can detect the right material,  the current technology has worked over assembling a nano-scale of it. Designing such an invisibility cloak is something which still requires a lot of research, experiments, and analysation and the scientists are still 10 to 15 years away from designing such a thing.


Who knows what will happen in the future? Maybe we can get to see such a miraculous invention very soon or maybe not. It is said that miracles happen every day.


Dibyasha Das

Dibyasha Das
Dibyasha Das

An amateur. A writer. A dreamer. An English literature student with many more miles to go

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