An international team of researchers has managed to develop new ‘metamaterials’ which can revolutionize prosthetics and other wearable technologies. Because of their unique structure and properties, scientists are able to create various forms and shapes which can change shape under pressure or deform over time.
The study detailing the invention was recently published in the journal Nature, by researchers from Tel Aviv University, Israel, the Foundation for Fundamental Research on Matter, and Leiden University in the Netherlands. They discovered how to create mechanical, synthetic materials they are calling metamaterials. These have certain structures and properties, unlike any other natural material. The metamaterials are formed of building blocks which can be programmed to deform in a certain pattern.
This new amazing material and its properties were illustrated by researchers Martin van Hecke and Yair Shokef, through an experiment. They 3-D printed a cube using building blocks of the metamaterial. When the cube was compressed a smiley-face pattern emerged on one of its sides.
According to Shokef:
“We started with a series of flexible building blocks that had deformation properties that varied with their position. The blocks were able to change their shape when we applied pressure. From there, we were able to develop a new design principle to enable these bricks to be oriented and assembled into a larger metamaterial with machine-like functionalities.”
The metamaterials will allow manufacturers of various products to program their behavior through carefully designed spatial structure. This is especially useful in the prosthetics industry which often encounters a problem with ill-fitting join sockets, sebaceous cysts and contact dermatitis. Metamaterials will allow the prosthetic to change in response to a certain amount of pressure.
There are a number of useful applications for this new technology including soft robotics and a variety of wearable technologies. If the technology advances enough, it will even be used in small-scale architectural projects and other various models. Its uses mostly depend on how complex the building blocks are and what other material can be used for its construction.
The new metamaterial technology has similar capabilities with 4-D printing which allows a single multi-material to change their shape over time using only simple energy inputs like water, heat or light.
Are you interest in this technology and its applications for prosthetics?