New, innovative material inspired by ancient design

The designs found in Iran’s Kharraqan towers became the unlikely inspiration for an advancement in metamaterials.
New, innovative material inspired by ancient design
New, innovative material inspired by ancient design

The intricate geometric patterns found in ancient Islamic art inspired Ahmad Rafsanjani and Damiano Pasini of McGill University in Montreal, Canada to create a new set of “metamaterials.” The innovative design has properties that do not occur naturally and are engineered to expand and contract in innovative ways.

According to a report by New Scientist, Rafsanjani and Pasini’s perforated rubber sheets are able to widen when stretched instead of just getting longer and thinner. The material remains in its expanded state until it is squeezed back together. Conventional materials contract in opposite directions when pulled, but the new metamaterial is able to retain its shape.

To do this, the Canadian team looked to the stonework of two 1 000-year-old Kharraqan tomb towers in Iran. “There is a huge library of geometries when you look at Islamic architectures,” Rafsanjani was quoted as saying.

Using two of the 70 designs found decorating the towers, the team found that they could create a material based on patterns of alternating shapes, separated by either circular or parallel cuts.

“I introduced some cuts and some hinges, but the pattern is exactly the same,” says Rafsanjani.

The work was presented at a meeting of the American Physical Society in Baltimore, Maryland, on 15 March. Its applications range from expandable stents to spacecraft components.