The future of the metamaterials field shows great promise for achieving exotic new functions according to October’s Proceedings of the IEEE, the most highly-cited general-interest journal in electrical engineering and computer science, approaching its 100th year of publication in 2012. Entitled “Metamaterials: Fundamentals and Applications in the Microwave and Optical Regimes,” the 16-article issue, written by internationally renowned leaders in the field is packed with innovative research reports on potential new functions and insights that could impact many aspects of life from enhancing readability of MRIs to increasing computer speed and improving bandwidth and cell phone performance.
Upgrading MRI Readability
While practical applications of bulk metamaterials are still far from being developed, research suggests that healthcare could benefit from new metamaterials applications. The paper by Ricardo Marque’s, Lukas Jelinek, Manuel J. Freire, Juan Domingo Baena and Mikhail Lapine, “Bulk Metamaterials Made of Resonant Rings,” references the potential of a metamaterials application that could improve diagnostic accuracy of Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) by making reports clearer to read. The paper also makes use of a rigorous homogenization treatment of these metamaterials and discusses an exciting application of such magnetic metamaterials for enhancing the resolution of surface coils in magnetic resonance imaging.
Improving Cell Phones
Improving cell phone performance by reducing the size of antennas is addressed in three papers in the issue. A variety of antennas have already been engineered with metamaterials (MTMs) and metamaterials-inspired constructs to improve their performance characteristics. But, right now, inside our phones, we still have one antenna dedicated to a given voice or data transmission. In the next couple of years, instead of one antenna, the research examines using metamaterials to enable packing the phones with several small antennas in order to dramatically increase capacity for applications such as video streaming and multimedia combined with improve quality of service.
The paper “Metamaterials-Inspired Engineering of Antennas” by Richard W. Ziolkowski, Fellow IEEE, Peng Jin, Member IEEE, and Chia-Ching Lin, Student Member IEEE, covers faster data loading times and higher performance streaming. The focus is on the realization of electrically small but efficient antennas using metamaterial loading. Multiband and multi-frequency antennas are also discussed. According to the paper, “At the heart of any wireless system is an antenna. MTMs whether explicitly introduced into an antenna system as physical constructs or implicitly introduced using their often exotic properties to guide specifics of a design provide exciting new opportunities for antenna engineers to meet the needs of a continually increasing demand for wireless products.”
Also on the topic of phone antennas, the paper by John L. Volakis, Fellow IEEE, and Kubilay Sertel, Senior Member IEEE, “Narrowband and Wideband Metamaterial Antennas Based on Degenerate Band Edge and Magnetic Photonic Crystals”, describes electrical small antennas based on unique anisotropic metamaterial structures. While the authors present several new antenna elements of much smaller size, they explain that this was done by exploiting wave slow-down techniques afforded by emulating in-plane anisotropy using simple coupled transmission line concepts. Of importance was the utilization of these elements within an antenna array to realize much smaller conformal and thin apertures achieving remarkable band-widths as much as 10:1.
In “Electromagnetic Design With Transformation Optics”, the first of four optics articles presents Transformation Optics (TO) as a powerful technique for designing metamagnetic and discusses several novel electromagnetic examples. According to authors Nathan B. Kundtz and David R. Smith, Members IEEE, and John B. Pendry Fellow IEEE, TO provides a design tool that is to wave optics what ray tracing is to geometrical optics. While the media required by the transformation optical approach are often complex and possibly unrealistic, the extreme flexibility in the transforms suggests that entire new classes of devices will be feasible using the developing approaches.
Michael Zedler and George V. Eleftheriades Fellow IEEE address synthesizing TO in the paper entitled “Anisotropic Transmission-Line Metamaterials for 2-D Transformation Optics Applications.“ The authors identify a method for synthesizing transformation optics metamaterials at microwaves and examples of microwave devices such as invisibility cloaks and flat retro-reflectors are described. Specifically the authors propose a transmission-line approach, which leads to large bandwidths of the order of 50% with small losses.
“Optical Metamaterials Based on Optical Nanocircuits” is the title of a third article in the optics area by Andrea Alu`, Member IEEE, and Nader Engheta, IEEE Fellow, and puts forward possible scenarios for the design of metamaterials in the optical regime by applying the nanocircuit concepts based on suitably arranged collections of nanoparticles. According to the authors, “Our article contains an overview and a thorough discussion of the benefits of the optical nanocircuit paradigm to the design and realization of improving computers speed with faster data and video, which could also be a benefit from the work being done in the optics metamaterials field. While it is still a theoretical concept, a method has been developed for using optical metamaterials structures to help decrease data loss and improve computer speed computer, which ultimately means faster data and video."
The metamaterials research field is vibrant, bright and is progressing steadily and strongly into various exciting forefronts which include quantum metamaterials, superconducting etamaterials strucmetamaterials, tunable and reconfigurable metamaterials, photonic metamaterials, infra-red metamaterials, and THz metamaterials to name a few. Given less than a decade of experience with the engineering applications of MTMs, there is great hope that they will provide additional degrees of freedom for the design of many different forms of electromagnetic applications.
About The Proceedings of the IEEE
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