We Could Be Close To Controlling Metamaterials with Our Minds

We Could Be Close To Controlling Metamaterials with Our Minds

People can now control metasurfaces with their thoughts, thanks to a team of researchers. Their findings were published in the journal eLight under the title “remotely mind-controlled metasurface via brainwaves,” which is a catchy term. For the uninformed, Metasurfaces have nothing to do with Facebook’s dreadful new moniker. Metamaterials are substances with unique qualities not found in nature. Sound and electromagnetic waves (including light) interact with man-made materials in ways that normal materials do not.

“The goal behind metamaterials is to duplicate the way atoms interact with light, but with artificial structures far smaller than the wavelength of light,” University of Sydney’s Boris Kuhlmey told The Conversation. “Optical qualities are no longer limited to those of the constituent materials and may be created virtually arbitrarily in this fashion.” From medical gadgets to invisibility cloaks, the materials and their 2D equivalent “metasurfaces” have a wide range of uses.

Professor Shaobo Qu and Professor Jiafu Wang of Air Force Engineering University, as well as Professor Cheng-Wei Qiu of the National University of Singapore, have demonstrated how these metamaterials can be controlled remotely with surprising precision using signals from users’ minds in a new experiment. The researchers began by developing a metamaterial that could modify and adjust light scattering by changing the current running through it. Then, using a commercial brainwave sensor module, they used bluetooth to “collect and then transfer brainwaves wirelessly towards the [remotely mind-controlled metasurface].”

“”The [remotely mind-controlled metasurface] will reply by modifying its [light] scattering pattern in response to the incoming brainwaves,” Scientists noted in their article. In this way, the user’s mind may manipulate the metasurface from afar.” The control wasn’t as simple as just cycling between two distinct scattering patterns, which added an extra degree of fun.

“The coding sequences on the metasurface may be adjusted according to the user’s attention intensity using brainwave signals delivered to [the control unit] as the control signal,” the researchers stated. “In this way, the metasurface’s scattering pattern may be manipulated remotely using the user’s thoughts.” Users may produce a variety of light dispersion patterns on the metamaterial by varying the intensity of their thoughts (as detected by the brainwave sensor module). 

The team believes that regulating metamaterials in this way might have multiple real-world uses, in addition to one apparent usage — a nice visual gauge of attention and concentration. “The intelligent process of the system will be further enhanced when combined with intelligent algorithms such as machine learning,” the researchers concluded. “This study can easily be expanded to additional mind-controlled functional or multi-functional metasurfaces, and it might be used in health monitoring, 5G/6G communications, smart sensors, and other areas.”