A metamaterial (from the Greek word μετά meta, meaning "beyond" and the Latin word materia, meaning "matter" or "material") is any material engineered to have a property that is not found in naturally occurring materials. They are made from assemblies of multiple elements fashioned from composite materials such as metals and plastics. The materials are usually arranged in repeating patterns, at scales that are smaller than the wavelengths of the phenomena they influence. Metamaterials derive their properties not from the properties of the base materials, but from their newly designed structures. Their precise shape, geometry, size, orientation and arrangement gives them their smart properties capable of manipulating electromagnetic waves: by blocking, absorbing, enhancing, or bending waves, to achieve benefits that go beyond what is possible with conventional materials.
Appropriately designed metamaterials can affect waves of electromagnetic radiation or sound in a manner not observed in bulk materials. Those that exhibit a negative index of refraction for particular wavelengths have been the focus of a large amount of research. These materials are known as negative-index metamaterials.
Potential applications of metamaterials are diverse and include optical filters, medical devices, remote aerospace applications, sensor detection and infrastructure monitoring, smart solar power management, crowd control, radomes, high-frequency battlefield communication and lenses for high-gain antennas, improving ultrasonic sensors, and even shielding structures from earthquakes. Metamaterials offer the potential to create superlenses. Such a lens could allow imaging below the diffraction limit that is the minimum resolution that can be achieved by conventional glass lenses. A form of 'invisibility' was demonstrated using gradient-index materials. Acoustic and seismic metamaterials are also research areas.
Metamaterial research is interdisciplinary and involves such fields as electrical engineering, electromagnetics, classical optics, solid state physics, microwave and antenna engineering, optoelectronics, material sciences, nanoscience and semiconductor engineering.