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These Physics-Defying "Metamaterials" Were Inspired by Islamic Art

Inspired by the geometries of Islamic stonework, researchers at McGill University created a stretchable material that is reversible.
Images: A Rafsanjani / D Pasini, McGill University, via

Islamic art features several motifs and styles, with the arabesque perhaps being the most recognizable. But one of the more striking examples is its fixation on geometric art, which was itself influenced by the geometric patterns found in Byzantine Greek, Roman, and Sasanian Empire art and architecture. Inspired by Islam’s artistic emphasis on intricate and complex tessellations and repetition, researchers in McGill University’s Pasini Group have created stretchable materials that could be used for expandable stents (for surgery) or even spacecraft components.


This design process for this new metamaterial, known as bistable auxetics, has its origins in two 1,000-year-old tomb towers located in Iran. Pasini Group’s Ahmad Rafsanjani tells journalists at the American Physical Society's March meeting that he used two of the towers’ 70 different architectures—one triangular, the other square—to design the auxetic material that expands in all directions.

"Inspired by Islamic motifs in ancient architectures, arranged in square and triangular grids, we fabricated square and triangular specimens by perforating such motifs into sheets of natural latex rubber using a laser cutter," Rafsanjani tells The Creators Project. "The designed metamaterial can be exploited to design new deployable structures, flexible devices, medical implants to treat stenotic lesion in body vessels, wearable skin sensors, aerospace structures such as solar panels for satellites."

Visit the BBC to see these incredible metamaterials in action.

Click here to see more work by the Pasini Group.


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