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The European Research Council (ERC) has awarded a €1.5 million Starting Grant to UvA-IoP physicist Corentin Coulais. Coulais will use the grant to study the properties of metamaterials, used in e.g. prosthetics and aerospace, under realistic conditions.

Corentin Coulais. Image: bedrijfsfotografie.nl.

Coulais’ project proposal is titled ‘Extreme Mechanics of Metamaterials: From Ideal to Realistic Conditions’. Mechanical metamaterials are artificially constructed materials with special structural properties that are used in e.g. prosthetics and aerospace. They have emerged as the most promising platform for the rational design of ‘extreme’ functionalities. However, this exciting progress has mostly been realised in ideal conditions using a purely geometric framework, which dramatically limits the potential of metamaterials.

In his project Coulais proposes to focus on a diametrically different, but crucial aspect of metamaterials: their extreme mechanics under realistic conditions. He will develop a completely new framework to allow for deviations from idealised scenarios. This breakthrough will lead to powerful tools to predict the sensitivity to inhomogeneous boundary conditions, geometric imperfections and dynamic effects.

Just as the fundamental understanding of defects and dislocations revolutionised materials science, by exploring perturbations in metamaterials Coulais will push the frontiers of solids mechanics and open up avenues for the design of robust advanced functionalities tailored to realistic complex scenarios in areas from medicine to space exploration.