Emerging Technologies

Smart 'metamaterial' can make decisions on its own

Bending metal.

The material uses a computer chip to control or manipulate the processing of information that’s needed to perform the requested actions. Image: Unsplash/ Rick Rothenberg

Eric Stann
Research News Strategist, Missouri University
Share:
Our Impact
What's the World Economic Forum doing to accelerate action on Emerging Technologies?
A hand holding a looking glass by a lake
Crowdsource Innovation
Get involved with our crowdsourced digital platform to deliver impact at scale
Stay up to date:

Emerging Technologies

  • Engineers at the University of Missouri have designed a new artificial material that can respond to its environment in real time.
  • Having a material that has the ability to sense, decide and act could revolutionize a number of industries.
  • The material uses a computer chip to control or manipulate the processing of information that’s needed to perform the requested actions, then uses the electrical power to convert that energy into mechanical energy.

Scientists have developed an artificial material called a metamaterial that can respond to its environment, independently make a decision, and perform an action without direction from a human.

For example, a drone making a delivery might evaluate its environment including wind direction, speed, or wildlife, and automatically change course in order to complete the delivery safely.

Guoliang Huang, professor of engineering at the University of Missouri and coauthor of the study in Nature Communications, says the mechanical design of their new artificial material incorporates three main functions also displayed by materials found in nature—sensing; information processing; and actuation, or movement.

Some examples of these natural materials include the quick reaction of a Venus flytrap’s leafy jaws to capture an insect, chameleons changing the color of their skin to blend into their surroundings, and pine cones adjusting their shapes in response to changes in air humidity, Huang says.

a diagram showing how the material works
Having a material that has the ability to sense, decide and act could revolutionize a number of industries. Image: Nature

“Basically, we are controlling how this material responds to changes in external stimuli found in its surroundings,” Huang says. “For example, we can apply this material to stealth technology in the aerospace industry by attaching the material to aerospace structures. It can help control and decrease noises coming from the aircraft, such as engine vibrations, which can increase its multifunctional capabilities.”

Have you read?

The material uses a computer chip to control or manipulate the processing of information that’s needed to perform the requested actions, then uses the electrical power to convert that energy into mechanical energy. The researchers’ next step is to implement their idea in a real-world environment.

Additional coauthors are from the University of Missouri and the University of Chicago.

Funding comes from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, the Army Research Office, and the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the funding agencies.

Loading...
Don't miss any update on this topic

Create a free account and access your personalized content collection with our latest publications and analyses.

Sign up for free

License and Republishing

World Economic Forum articles may be republished in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License, and in accordance with our Terms of Use.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

Share:
World Economic Forum logo
Global Agenda

The Agenda Weekly

A weekly update of the most important issues driving the global agenda

Subscribe today

You can unsubscribe at any time using the link in our emails. For more details, review our privacy policy.

How to build the skills needed for the age of AI

Juliana Guaqueta Ospina

April 11, 2024

1:31

About Us

Events

Media

Partners & Members

  • Join Us

Language Editions

Privacy Policy & Terms of Service

© 2024 World Economic Forum