A team of researchers from the University of Amsterdam Institute of Physics has found a way to design materials that are both stiff and good at absorbing vibrations.
Typically, these two characteristics are mutually exclusive: something is either stiff or it can absorb vibrations well. but rarely both. Materials that are both stiff and good at absorbing vibrations have a whole host of potential applications, from design at the nano-scale to aerospace engineering.
‘We discovered that the trick was to use materials that buckle, like thin metal sheets,’ said PhD student David Dykstra. ‘When put together in a clever way, constructions made out of such buckled sheets become great absorbers of vibrations – but at the same time, they preserve a lot of the stiffness of the material they are made out of. Moreover, the sheets do not need to be very thick, and so the material can be kept relatively light.’
When the researchers investigated the properties of the buckled materials, they found that they all showed this magical combination of stiffness and ability to dissipate vibrations. As known materials don’t have this desired combination of properties, the new lab-made materials (or metamaterials) have a very wide range of potential applications, and at a very wide range of scales, from metres (aerospace and automotive applications, and many other civil designs) to the microscale (applications such as microscopes or nanolithography).
‘Humans like to build things – small things and big things – and we almost always want these structures to be light,’ Dykstra said. ‘If that can be done with materials that are both stiff and good at shock-absorbing, many existing designs can be improved and many new designs become possible. There really is no end to the possible applications.’
The research has been published in Advanced Materials.