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Researchers unveil metamaterial that detects sequence of operations
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Researchers unveil metamaterial that detects sequence of operations
by Erica Marchand
Paris, France (SPX) Jun 05, 2024

Researchers from Tel Aviv University and Los Alamos National Laboratory have developed a new mechanical metamaterial named 'Chaco,' capable of remembering the order of actions performed on it. Unlike ordinary materials that respond identically to a sequence of manipulations regardless of order, Chaco exhibits history-dependent behavior.

This discovery could lead to applications in memory storage, robotics, and mechanical computing. The research team included Chaviva Sirote-Katz, Dor Shohat, Dr. Carl Merrigan, Prof. Yoav Lahini, Prof. Yair Shokef from Tel Aviv University, and Dr. Cristiano Nisoli from Los Alamos National Laboratory.

A metamaterial is a structure made of building blocks larger than atoms or molecules, with physical properties determined mainly by the spatial arrangement of these blocks. This study focuses on a mechanical metamaterial made of an array of flexible beams that bend under compression. The researchers introduced frustration in the geometric arrangement of the beams, preventing them from responding to external pressure uniformly.

"This material is like a mechanical memory storage device that can remember a sequence of inputs," explained Dor Shohat, a Ph.D. student at Tel Aviv University involved in the research. "Each of its mechanical building blocks has two stable states, just like a single bit of memory."

Chaco's memory capability stems from its design, inspired by frustration in magnetic systems known for their memory properties. Similar to how geometric frustration in magnets prevents a simple ordered state, Chaco's building blocks are arranged to prevent easy settlement into an ordered, low-energy configuration. This controlled frustration allows the material to remember the sequence of actions it has experienced.

"By carefully designing the geometry of the material, we can control the way it responds to external forces," added Chaviva Sirote-Katz, another Ph.D. student involved in the research. "This allows us to create disorder and complex behaviors in a simple, ordered structure."

Chaco's ability to recognize sequences of actions is due to its non-Abelian nature, where the order of operations matters. Flipping two units in one order may result in a different final state than flipping them in the reverse order. This sensitivity to history enables encoding information in the sequence of actions and retrieving it by observing the final state of the material.

The study, published in Nature Communications, links magnetism and mechanics. Magnetic materials exhibit behaviors generally not found in mechanical ones, and Chaco's design offers new principles for creating mechanical materials with memory and computation abilities.

Research Report:Emergent disorder and mechanical memory in periodic metamaterials

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Tel-Aviv University
Space Technology News - Applications and Research

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