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QUEST Begins for Improved Electromagnetic Manipulation

Photonics.com
Jul 2011
LONDON, July 8, 2011 — Becoming invisible with the swish of a cloak or bringing cell phone coverage to previously unreachable places could soon be a reality with a £4.5 million ($7.22 million) project led by Queen Mary, University of London.

The project, dubbed Quest for Ultimate Electromagnetics using Spatial Transformations (QUEST) and funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, aims to transform the ways in which electromagnetic waves – such as light and radio frequencies – are manipulated.

"There has been intensive research into the principles of invisibility science which has now matured to the point that the next big step is to use the insights of theory to produce practical devices,” said Yang Hao of the university’s school of electronic engineering and computer science, who leads the five-year project that began on July 1.

"Invisibility is an optical illusion created by the transformation of space in suitable materials. Wireless technology relies on electromagnetic waves, like radio waves, that are similar in behavior to light but have much longer wavelengths, and what is possible for light is often also possible for other electromagnetic waves," he added.

The research, which involves four UK universities, will focus on developing practical applications of spatial transformations for communication, wireless energy transfer, sensors and security.

The idea of spatial transformations is to provide entirely fresh solutions to the distribution of the spatial arrangement of materials so as to enable new ways to manipulate the emission, propagation and absorption of electromagnetic radiation. This goes far beyond what can be accomplished with traditional materials in the form of lenses and mirrors, requiring both conventional materials and also those with properties that do not exist in nature (i.e., metamaterials). Spatial transformations are at the heart of exciting ideas such as invisibility cloaks. To make the required exotic materials in large quantities, modern fabrication techniques will be needed, including the use of nanocomposites and graded-index coatings.

One of the pioneers of spatial transformation theory, Ulf Leonhardt at the University of St. Andrews, will lead the theory element of the new research. Queen Mary's team, including Hao and Clive Parini, will focus on the project's engineering applications, while Alastair Hibbins, Bill Barnes and Roy Sambles will lead a team at the University of Exeter to turn theory into experiment. A team at the University of Oxford, led by Patrick Grant and Chris Grovenor, will develop the new materials required for practical applications.

Materials and devices based on the concept of spatial transformations offer the exciting prospect of warping electromagnetic space so as to overcome problems due to obstacles and scatterers.

By combining theory with experiment and computer simulations with materials science, QUEST will create new products for wireless technology. For example, with the right sort of materials and devices, it may no longer be required to switch off mobile phones in airplanes. In addition, wireless antennas may become smaller, more effective and unrecognizable so that they can be sewn into clothing.

Such applications are at the heart of the QUEST project. The researchers ultimately hope to build and demonstrate several devices in collaboration with defense, aerospace and communications stakeholders in the areas of health care, security, energy and the digital economy.

For more information, visit: www.qmul.ac.uk  


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