UK Scientists Granted $4.2m for Metamaterials Research, Pursue "Perfect Lens"
6 May 2014
The UK's Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council has announced plans invest £2.5 million ($4.2 million) in research of metamaterials by Imperial College London, the University of Liverpool and Liverpool John Moores University during the next five years.
Research into the use of metamaterials in optics has already introduced breakthroughs like the possibility of an invisibility cloak. This has helped scientists receive funding for other possible applications of metamaterials, one of which will be the possible creation of the so-called "perfect lens."
Such a lens would be one that enables light microscopes to see objects smaller than a single wave-length of light, such as a single virus. Metamaterials have unusual properties not seen in natural materials, and scientists hope this will help them break the Rayleigh limit of diffraction and create lenses with imaging properties currently achievable only by electron microscopes - with the drawback that cells need to be dead or frozen.
However, this is just one direction where the research might have success. By applying new concepts to fields like acoustic metamaterials and thermal cloaking, scientists will seek to engineer designer metamaterials with specific properties. The practical applications for such materials could range from cloaking buildings from earthquakes to creating computer chips that don't get hot and therefore can have an unlimited amount of transistors.
According to the UK's Universities and Science Minister David Willetts, advanced materials represent one of the great technologies of the future with the potential to propel UK growth. The current £2.5 million investment will help the country develop further applications for metamaterials and reap the benefits of advanced materials for its wider economy, he added.