Sound waves passing through the air, objects that break a body of water and cause ripples, or shockwaves from earthquakes all are considered “elastic” waves. These waves travel at the surface or through a material without causing any permanent changes to the substance’s makeup. Now, engineering researchers at the University of Missouri have developed a material that has the ability to control elastic waves, creating possible medical, military and commercial applications.

In the past, scientists have used a combination of materials, such as metal and rubber, to effectively ‘bend’ and control waves. Guoliang Huang, associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering in the College of Engineering at MU, and his team designed a material using a single component: steel. The engineered structural material possesses the ability to control the increase of acoustical or elastic waves. Improvements to broadband signals and super-imaging devices also are possibilities.

The material was made in a single steel sheet using lasers to engrave “chiral,” or geometric microstructure patterns, which are asymmetrical to their mirror images

Huang said there are numerous possibilities for the material to control elastic waves, including super-resolution sensors, acoustic and medical hearing devices, as well as a “superlens” that could significantly advance super-imaging