The University of Exeter has received a £1.8 million research grant for a collaboration with the National Science Foundation Industry-University Cooperative Research Center for Metamaterials (CfM) in the USA to develop advanced, reconfigurable metamaterials that will revolutionise technologies such as wireless communication networks, remote imaging and artificial intelligence type computing.
The project will be led by experts from Exeter’s Centre for Metamaterial Research and Innovation (CMRI) It is one of 12 projects nationwide funded by a total £17 million investment from the EPSRC in their International Centre to Centre Research Collaboration programme.
The project, called “A-Meta”, aims to develop a new family of metamaterials, a term used to describe artificially structured materials with properties that go beyond those found in nature.
The functionality of traditional metamaterials is however fixed at the time of fabrication in, making it hard to adapt them to the multifunctionality and reconfigurability essential to many of today’s applications.
A-Meta breaks from tradition by developing tunable, reconfigurable and programmable metamaterials, and will include input from a wide range of prestigious international partners, including Airbus, BAE Systems, Ball Aerospace (USA), British Telecommunications, and NASA.
Professor Alastair Hibbins, from the University of Exeter and lead for the project said: “Metamaterials provide a new way to control the information and energy in the world around us. But as our connected lives become ever more complex, so do the devices that we use. Conventionally, metamaterials are fixed in the way they function or perform but making them tunable or reconfigurable offers enormous application potential.
“These new reconfigurable or ‘active' materials offer the prospect of reconfiguring wireless network systems to increase their capacity, remotely monitor defects in manufacturing processes, and changing the way antennas work in mobile phones to make them smaller and lighter.
"Perhaps most exciting of all, our work will lead to advances in the designs of super-fast and efficient computing for AI applications and new approaches to remote imaging and sensing.”
The project launches on February 1st 2022.
EPSRC Executive Chair Professor Dame Lynn Gladden added: “From better, cheaper medicines to powerful quantum computers and next-generation communications networks, these new technologies have the potential to transform the way we live.
“By bringing together world-leading researchers to deliver ground-breaking science and engineering solutions, these projects will generate impact that will be felt across all of society.”