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Discovery opens door to low-cost 'negative refraction,' new products and industries
Date:2/23/2012

CORVALLIS, Ore. Researchers at Oregon State University have discovered a way to make a low-cost material that might accomplish negative refraction of light and other radiation a goal first theorized in 1861 by a giant of science, Scottish physicist James Maxwell, that has still eluded wide practical use.

Other materials can do this but they are based on costly, complex crystalline materials. A low-cost way that yields the same result will have extraordinary possibilities, experts say ranging from a "super lens" to energy harvesting, machine vision or "stealth" coatings for seeming invisibility.

Entire new products and industries could be possible. The findings have just been published and a patent has been applied for on the technology.

The new approach uses ultra-thin, ultra-smooth, all-amorphous laminates, essentially a layered glass that has no crystal structure. It is, the researchers say, a "very high-tech sandwich."

The goal is to make radiation bend opposite to the way it does when passing through any naturally occurring material. This is possible in theory, as Maxwell penciled out during the American Civil War. In reality, it's been pretty difficult to do.

"To accomplish the task of negative refraction, these metamaterials have to be absolutely perfect, just flawless," said Bill Cowell, a doctoral candidate in the OSU School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. "Everyone thought the only way to do that was with perfectly crystalline materials, which are quite expensive to produce and aren't very practical for large-area commercial application.

"We now know these materials may not need to be that exotic."

The new study has explained how easy-to-produce laminate materials, created with technology similar to that used to produce a flat panel television, should work for this purpose. The findings outline the component materials and the theoretical behavior of the laminates, Cowell
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Contact: Bill Cowell
cowellb@onid.orst.edu
541-758-2895
Oregon State University
Source:Eurekalert

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