A new class of materials has arrived: rigid but able to deform
A team of researchers from the UvA Physics Institute has now found a way to design new materials with multiple seemingly irreconcilable characteristics
Usually, a material is either stiff or absorbs vibration well, but rarely both. However, if we could create materials that are both stiff and able to absorb vibrations, there would be a wide range of applications, from nanoscale design to aerospace engineering.
The buckling has its effect
A group of researchers from the University of Amsterdam has found a way to create materials that are rigid but capable of absorbing vibrations and, just as importantly, being very light. David Dykstra, lead author of the publication, explains: “ We found that the trick was to use materials that deform , such as thin sheets of metal. When put together intelligently, constructions made of these arched plates become excellent vibration absorbers, but at the same time retain much of the rigidity of the material of which they are made. Furthermore, the sheets do not need to be very thick and therefore the material can be kept relatively light .”
A myriad of applications
Researchers delved into the properties of these arched materials and found that they all exhibited this magical combination of stiffness and ability to dissipate vibrations. Since known materials do not exhibit this combination of properties, new laboratory-made materials (or metamaterials) have a wide range of potential applications and on a very large scale.
Possible uses range from the size of a meter (think of aerospace, automotive applications and many other civil projects) to the microscale (applications such as microscopes or nanolithography). Dykstra comments: “ Humans like to build things, big and small, and we almost always want these structures to be lightweight. If this can be done with materials that are both stiff and shock absorbent, many existing designs can be improved upon and many new designs become possible. The possible applications are truly endless! “.