Metamaterials and wave-matter interactions

Metamaterials are rationally designed composites, with structure on a scale-length smaller than the wavelength. Their electromagnetic or acoustic character is different to those of the bulk properties of the ingredients they comprise. At the point of design, we can engineer properties to develop materials capable of manipulating the flow of energy, for example by absorbing, bending or radiating, to achieve benefits that go beyond what is possible with conventional materials.

At Exeter, our research grew from studies of microwave metamaterials, where the cm- and mm-length scales offer fabrication of complex structures with relative ease, using both conventional workshop and advanced 3D printing techniques.

We also exploit similar advantages of scale through research with acoustic metamaterials, both in air and underwater (SONAR), and we are using metamaterial concepts to manipulate the flow of fluids.

Our metamaterials portfolio exploits synergies with our plasmonics, natural photonics and disordered systems and magnetic materials research, and also contributes to the terahertz and visible domains.

At the same time we are pursuing theoretical and modelling studies to:

  • drive the targeted design of metamaterials,
  • understand the novel fundamental phenomena that can be probed,
  • pioneer the design of new meta-atoms,
  • and explore the functionality of devices that can be envisaged in the future.

An example of this is the field of transformation optics, a set of theoretical tools that leads to designs for cloaking and other exotic effects requiring metamaterials for their realisation.

The ability to manipulate energy flow through the opportunities offered by metamaterials have relevance for a large number of end-users. We have a long and successful track record of working with industry, with applications including:

  • signature control
  • communications (antennas)
  • imaging
  • tagging
  • security
  • sensing
  • and energy harvesting.


To find out more about working with us, please contact Alastair Hibbins.

Current research