What’s a mechanical metamaterial? Where can I find technical information?

Find answers to common questions like these in our FAQs.

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General FAQs

What are mechanical metamaterials?2020-10-20T10:38:09-04:00

Mechanical metamaterials are a class of structured materials designed with a wide range of optimized responses to external forces, such as improved strength, enhanced vibrational dampening, thermal efficiency, energy absorption, and more. They’re created by embedding geometric patterns into common base materials, without chemical or molecular modifications. The base material is often metallic, elastomeric, or composite.

The metamaterial’s overall geometric design, unit (or “motif”) size, and orientation is generated and optimized computationally using kinematic analysis of mechanisms, homogenization theory, and full solid characterization. Optimized geometries are then embedded into a base material using 3D printing or other pattern transfer methods. The resulting physical properties are largely determined by the metamaterial’s geometric pattern. In short, metamaterials allow us to engineer materials with properties not found in naturally occurring materials (see: Wikipedia article on metamaterials).

visual representation of an equation for creating a metamaterial

What are the benefits to using mechanical metamaterials over conventional materials?2021-04-27T08:20:39-04:00

Limitations and trade-offs associated with conventional materials (metals, polymers, composites, etc.) impact all aspects of manufacturing, from cost to performance. Making new materials is usually accomplished through chemistry, which is hard, expensive, and slow. We need a better way to produce new materials.

Enter mechanical metamaterials. Since new geometries – not new molecules – are being created, the time and cost to demonstrate a performance improvement are much lower. Mechanical metamaterials also allow multiple enhanced characteristics to be applied to the base material, depending on the motif geometry. And base, raw materials are easily sourced – no need for costly supply chain modifications.

Mechanical metamaterials are compatible with traditional manufacturing methods, such as injection molding, thermoforming, casting, milling, and roll-to-roll pattern transfer, which allows for easy mass production and supply chain integration.

Why is Multiscale Systems the leader in mechanical metamaterials?2020-10-20T10:42:52-04:00

Multiscale Systems was created with the intent to commercialize advanced materials research conducted by founders Jesse Silverberg, PhD, and Arthur Evans, PhD, during their doctoral and postdoctoral training.

Their primary motivation was to see their research on mechanical metamaterials progress beyond academic papers and into real-world applications. This motivation was enhanced by an apparent absence in the technical expertise required for the technology to be advanced by existing materials science/engineering firms, which are generally more focused on developing new chemical and molecular structures.

We design our metamaterials computationally using a combination of proprietary and professional engineering software, drawing on the original research of Jesse and Arthur, being one of the first companies to offer mechanical metamaterials to clients.

What are mechanical metamaterials made of?2021-04-27T08:25:58-04:00

Just about anything.

Because a mechanical metamaterial is the combination of a specific geometric pattern and a base material, a mechanical metamaterial can be made out of almost any material, including metals, composites, elastomers, polymers – even paper.

In other words, the geometries that give mechanical metamaterials their optimized characteristics are largely agnostic to the material type.

Are mechanical metamaterials and optical metamaterials the same thing?2021-04-27T09:46:26-04:00

While they are both classed as metamaterials, mechanical and optical metamaterials differ in their responses to external forces.

Optical metamaterials are a type of electromagnetic metamaterial that can affect electromagnetic waves.

Mechanical metamaterials are classed as a type of structural metamaterial, which are more concerned with physical properties like density, strength, and stiffness.

Mechanical metamaterials can take the functionality of structural metamaterials further by using corrosion-resistant or high-temperature materials, for example.

What is an example of a common structural material?2021-04-27T10:08:15-04:00

Probably the most commonly known example of a structured material is honeycomb.

Honeycomb for structural applications was patented in 1914, and the following year Hugo Junkers used metal honeycomb cores for the first time in aircraft.

By 1969, Boeing had incorporated fire-resistant honeycombs from Hexcel into their 747s.

Cardboard honeycomb is widely used in packaging material (think corrugated cardboard boxes).

What industries do you work with?2020-10-20T13:03:23-04:00

We have developed metamaterials for defense, aerospace, transportation, and energy. Often, metamaterials designed for one application can be used across several different markets. An example is MetaCORE, which can be used in impact absorbing defense applications, as well as improving crashworthiness in electric vehicles.

Can you send me samples?2020-10-20T10:46:36-04:00

Please fill out our contact form to request samples.

Who do you work with or are funded by?2021-04-27T08:28:01-04:00

We’ve previously received several SBIRs from the U.S. Department of Energy, the National Science Foundation, and NASA. We’ve also received various awards and resources from the U.S. Department of Defense, accelerators, local organizations, and partner companies. See a full list of our funders and partners on the About page.

Do you have a press kit?2021-04-27T08:29:45-04:00

Yes, our press kit – along with press releases, media mentions, and more information about Multiscale Systems – can be found on our Press page.

Technical FAQs

Where can I find technical data?2021-04-27T08:37:03-04:00

Technical data can be found in Resources, including datasheets, white papers, and case studies.

What is a mechanical metamaterial “motif”?2021-04-27T08:38:11-04:00

A motif is a single “unit cell” of a mechanical metamaterial. Metamaterial products are created by multiplying motifs to create larger sections, often in the form of blocks or panels. A final product may contain a single motif or combine several motifs, depending on the desired optimizations.

MetaCORE and MetaTHERM are single motif metamaterials that can be tessellated into larger sections, while MetaCORE-LD is MetaCORE in a sandwich panel form.

diagram showing how a computational design can become a sheet or motif, and then a fabric or core, respectively

What is Crush Force Efficiency (CFE) and Specific Energy Absorption (SEA) and why are they important?2021-04-27T08:41:54-04:00


CFE is a ratio of stresses that measure how much force travels through an impact protecting material.

This number is used in aerospace and automotive industries as way of determining the risk of head and neck injuries during a collision, but it can also be used to see how much force would be transmitted to cargo or other supplies.

CFE is inversely related to the size of the peak on a stress-strain graph – larger peaks reduce the CFE to 0, offering the least amount of protection, while smaller peaks increase the CFE to its maximum value of 1, offering the most amount of protection:

figure showing how higher CFE peak is closer to CFE of 0, and lower peek is closer to CFE of 1


The SEA is the total area under the flat part of the load-compression curve on the stress-strain graph, divided by the mass of the material that’s become crushed.

A large SEA (> 20 kJ/kg) means lots of energy has been absorbed by the material on impact or that the material absorbing the impact is very lightweight.

Many lightweight, high SEA materials – like honeycomb – are functional in only one direction, meaning they have low SEA and poor impact protection abilities in the other two directions.

Off-axis impacts are generally not effectively dissipated with these materials. In comparison, MetaCORE was designed to be a pro-isotropic, high SEA metamaterial, which overcomes the uncertainty of knowing the impacting direction.

stress strain graph showing a typical load compression curve

How does MetaCORE compare to honeycomb?2021-04-27T08:59:42-04:00

Honeycomb, commonly manufactured from plastic, metal, or fibrous pulp, is a type of metamaterial that is often used where impact protection is required.

It has a strong Specific Energy Absorption in one direction, and none in the other two. MetaCORE has a strong SEA in all directions, which makes it isotropic and able to absorb energy from any direction.

With Crush Force Efficiency, honeycomb has a large peak stress, whereas MetaCORE was designed to eliminate this problem and has virtually no peak stress.

We gave a quick-read 1-pager that goes into more detail: MetaCORE-LD: Compared to Solid, Foam, and Honeycomb Cores (PDF, 0.3 MB).

How do mechanical metamaterials allow for multi-objective optimization?2021-04-27T10:00:55-04:00

The properties of a mechanical metamaterial motif – such as geometry, orientation, and unit size – all contribute to that metamaterial’s optimization.

For example, MetaCORE offers high impact absorption, large R-values, and is isotropic (provides optimized functionality in all directions).

Changing a property of a motif can change the resulting optimizations, making custom multi-objective optimizations possible.

How to use and choose mechanical metamaterials

How do I choose the best metamaterial for my application?2021-04-27T10:06:13-04:00

“Bespoke” is a popular buzzword these days, but that’s exactly what we offer our clients.

The beauty of Multiscale System’s approach to metamaterial design and manufacturing is that it can be highly customized to suit a particular application.

The motif geometry (or multiple geometries), material, density, cell size, etc. all affect the performance of a finished mechanical metamaterial product.

We work directly with our customers to develop a product that will deliver the exact requirements for their specific need.

Check out our Metamaterial Selector tool to see solutions based on selected variables (material, density, etc.).

What manufacturing methods are compatible with metamaterials?2021-04-27T10:10:15-04:00

Metamaterials can be created using a range of methods, including:

  • Injection molding
  • Thermoforming
  • Casting
  • Milling
  • Pattern transfer
  • Additive manufacturing (3D printing)
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