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Left-Handed Materials Go from Fact to Fiction and Back Again

Lenses that bend light the wrong way exist after all, according to the latest experiments

5 min read

1 July 2003—Last week, when George Eleftheriades presented his latest research findings at a meeting of engineers and physicists in Philadelphia, he gave proof of a phenomenon that seems, on the face of it, impossible. With a planar slab of so-called left-handed material, a construct of conductors and inductors, he focused microwaves with a resolution better than a half wavelength—beyond the diffraction limit. Eleftheriades, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Toronto (Canada), was using a material with a property that, until recently, was unknown in nature: if microwaves strike such negative-index-of-refraction materials at an angle, they bend inward, relative to a plane perpendicular to the refracting medium, rather than outward.

Left-handed materials initially were trumpeted as the key to radical new antenna designs and even ideal optical lenses with perfect powers of resolution. But, with the publication of critical papers arguing that their behavior had been misinterpreted, claims made for left-handed materials got bent badly out of shape last year. Some critics contended that negative refraction simply did not exist. ”I believe that left-handed materials will turn out to be another ’cold fusion,’ ” said veteran antenna designer and IEEE Fellow Robert Hansen, in a communication to IEEE Spectrum. (Hansen was reacting to a report the magazine carried, ”Left-handed Material Reacts to 3-D Light,” which appeared in the October 2002 issue, pp. 24�25.)

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Asad Madni and the Life-Saving Sensor

His pivot from defense helped a tiny tuning-fork prevent SUV rollovers and plane crashes

11 min read
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Asad Madni and the Life-Saving Sensor

In 1992, Asad M. Madni sat at the helm of BEI Sensors and Controls, overseeing a product line that included a variety of sensor and inertial-navigation devices, but its customers were less varied—mainly, the aerospace and defense electronics industries.

And he had a problem.

The Cold War had ended, crashing the U.S. defense industry. And business wasn’t going to come back anytime soon. BEI needed to identify and capture new customers—and quickly.

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