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Strange new twist: Berkeley researchers discover Möbius symmetry in metamaterials
Date:12/20/2010

ing hidden symmetries is a general phenomenon known as "degeneracy." For example, the energy level degeneracy of an atom in a crystal is correlated with the crystal symmetry. A three-body system, like a trimer, can be especially effective for studying the correlation between degeneracy and symmetry because, although it is a relatively simple system, it reveals a rich spectrum of phenomena.

"The unique properties of a three-body system make experimental investigations of hidden symmetries possible," says Chih-Wei Chang, a former post-doc in Zhang's group and the lead author of the paper in Physical Review Letters, says. "Intrigued by the extraordinary engineering flexibilities of metamaterials, we decided to investigate some non-trivial symmetries hidden beneath these metamolecules by studying their degeneracy properties"

The authors tested their metamaterials for hidden symmetry by shining a light and monitoring the optical resonances. The resulting resonant frequencies revealed that degeneracy is kept even when the coupling constants between meta-atoms flip signs.

"Because degeneracy and symmetry are always correlated, there must be some symmetry hidden beneath the observed degeneracy" says Chang.

The researchers showed that whereas trimer systems with uniform negative (or positive) coupling signs could be symbolized as an equilateral triangle, trimer systems with mixed signs of couplings could only be symbolized as a Mbius strip with topological C3 symmetry. Furthermore, in other metamolecular systems made of six meta-atoms, the authors demonstrated up to three Mbius twists.

Says Chang, now a faculty member at National Taiwan University in Taipei, "When going from natural systems to artificial meta-atoms and metamolecules, we can expect to encounter phenomena far beyond our conventional conceptions. The new symmetries we find in metamaterials could be extended to other kinds of artificial systems, such as Josephson
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Contact: Lynn Yarris
lcyarris@lbl.gov
510-486-5375
DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Source:Eurekalert  

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