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Believe If You Want: Light Can Do Math

Industries like telecommunications, optics and aerospace are starting to focus on metamaterials in order to create structures with unique capacities. In order to understand what is a metamaterial, please watch this explanation provided by Dr. Nader Engheta, an expert on this field:

So, putting things simply, metamaterials are materials that can change the properties of light waves. Their properties are thought to be useful in several applications, such as data transmission, wireless charging and others.

Actually, Dr. Engheta is one of the authors of the study behind this novelty. The study, named «Performing Mathematical Operations with Metamaterials», was published a few days ago in the Science Magazine. It is a collaboration between researchers from the Universities of Pennsylvania and Texas, in the US, and the University of Sannio, in Italy.

Even though several properties of metamaterials are identified, the novelty presented by this study is the possibility to use them in order to perform calculations. In other words, metamaterials have the ability to change the shape of an incoming light wave, which has a similar effect as calculations performed by a computer.

According to Nader Engheta, "as a light wave goes through a block of metamaterial, by the time it comes out, it should have a shape that would be the result of mathematical operations". While these blocks were only simulated in computers, the results obtained by these researchers are very promising.

One of the possible and most immediate applications of this technology is image processing. In the digital cameras we use nowadays, light waves are captured, converted to electric signals in a digital format and processed after that. By using these metamaterials, all the operations could be done almost instantaneously from the original incoming light waves, without any need of conversion.

The same principle can also be applied to medical devices using image processing, making their operations much more fast. In addition, another major application can be used in computing: with metamaterials new computing devices could be produced, not only much smaller (by the size of several light waves) but also with higher processing speeds and lower energy consumption rates, comparing to the ones we have now.

What do you think about this technology? Let us know in the comments.