Editor’s note: Cost-effective manufacturing will be key to commercial adoption of novel materials that can help create devices, at this time, such as superlenses and improved antennas, says Lux Research, the sources of this report summary. New materials and their manufacturing techniques could also lighten uptower mass and the machinery in the nacelle.
Metamaterials, or those with unusual properties not typically found in natural materials, will soon be turning up in niche commercial applications, and are poised to enter the mainstream in 10 years, says Lux Research.
Metamaterials use a carefully controlled micro or nanostructure to create novel mechanical, electromagnetic, or acoustic properties. They can be used to create devices such as improved satellite antennas or security scanners, longer and lighter wind turbine blades, as well as exotic innovations such as lenses that can produce ultra-high resolution images, or “invisibility cloaks” that redirect electromagnetic radiation completely around an object.
“Practical implementation of these technologies depends on cost-effective manufacturing methods that allow fine patterning,” said Anthony Vicari, Lux Research Associate and the lead author of the report titled, “Breaking the Rules: Emerging Metamaterials Drive Performance in New Directions.”
“As developers discover cheaper ways to produce metamaterials, they can have a disruptive impact on industries such as communications, electronics, and defense,” he added.
Lux Research analysts say they have evaluated the progress of metamaterials R&D, assessed advances by start-ups, and conducted a patent and commercial milestone analysis. Among their findings:
- Government agencies dominate funding. Even though venture capital investors have poured over $100 million into metamaterials start-ups, predominant funding comes from governments, ranging from the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to the Chinese central government, which have contributed over $200 million.
- Diverse start-ups emerging. Since 2006, start-ups such as Rayspan and Kymeta have targeted the low-hanging fruit – developing radio and microwave frequency electromagnetic metamaterials, such as antennas for communications. Now others are focusing on metamaterials to manipulate visible light, or make surfaces that repel bacteria.
- Duke University leads in publications. Since 2000, over 7,500 academic publications on metamaterials have been published at over 500 universities. Duke University, led by its Center for Metamaterials and Integrated Plasmonics, heads the pack with 133 publications; Imperial College of London’s Centre for Plasmonics and Metamaterials and Penn State are fellow academic leaders.
The report, titled “Breaking the Rules: Emerging Metamaterials Drive Performance in New Directions,” is part of the Lux Research Advanced Materials Intelligence service.