Metamaterials are a mind-bending class of matter. Broadly defined as manmade materials with unusual properties not found in nature, this category of materials is probably most famous for serving as the building blocks for a Harry Potter-style invisibility cloak. But so much more is possible.
One thing that all metamaterials have in common is the ability to make waves behave strangely. This can lead to electromagnetic waves zigging when they should zag and sound waves curving in ways they don't normally do. The list is almost limitless, but we've put together a few of the exciting uses for metamaterials that are just over the horizon. [Nature]
Bend light to effectively create an invisibility cloak. This works exactly like it sounds which is what's so impressive.
Construct satellite trackers that never need to move. Similar technology could serve as portable, energy-efficient satellite communication units for soldiers on the battlefield.
Enable ultra-fast data processing. Metamaterials could also reduce the size of chips so that they'd be tiny and speedy.
Beam broadband connections to planes, trains, ships and cars. Imagine having internet access, well, everywhere.
Create a camera that uses compressed microwave images without a lens or moving parts. This could replace the bulky gateways currently in use at airports.
Become the building blocks for a high-speed fibre-optic telecommunications network. Not only can they beam the internet to aeroplanes, metamaterials can make up the internet itself.
Build a better smartphone camera lenses. Metamaterial technology could actually create better lenses in general -- ones that can do things existing lenses can't.
Contribute to making efficient solar cells less bulky. And who doesn't want more efficient solar energy?
First image via Warner Bros. / All others via Shutterstock