New applications for mattresses, cushions and smugglers could be in the offing thanks to research from a German research institution.
Campers are sure to be excited about the idea of extremely thin mattresses that still even out how the natural earth feels when you lay down on it. Smugglers are likely to see potential in the idea, too, as nothing could be trickier than the false bottom of a package that feels like its cushy.
That’s the promise of a new metamaterial from the Karlsruhe Insititute of Technology [KIT]. In short, you can place something under it, then run your hand over it, and the cushion will feel even throughout.
The critical element in this breakthrough is the development of metamaterials. Most metamaterials are engineered microscopic structures that have been used to create effects on light that aren’t found in nature. This appears to be the first metamaterial designed to mislead the sense of touch. Wikipedia describes the materials this way, “Metamaterials gain their properties not from their composition, but from their exactingly-designed structures.”
This metamaterial uses exactingly arranged cones such that the forces of the hidden object and the finger and distributed evenly, so that the person can’t tell that the cushion has been bunched up above the hidden object.
A description of the material from KIT:
The metamaterial is a crystalline material structured with sub-micrometer accuracy. It consists of needle-shaped cones, whose tips meet. The size of the contact points is calculated precisely to reach the mechanical properties desired. In this way, a structure results, through which a finger or a measurement instrument cannot feel its way.
Some other metamaterials we’ve covered:
- One that reflects no light, the darkest material ever.
- Another that could drive the engine on a warp drive.
- A material that focuses radiowaves into a tight beam.