Geometric-optical studies for metamaterial representations of curved spacetime

Tom H. Anderson, Tom G. MacKay, Akhlesh Lakhtakia

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Metamaterials offer opportunities to explore curved-spacetime scenarios which would otherwise be impractical or impossible to study. These opportunities arise from the formal analogy that exists between light propagation in vacuous curved spacetime and in a certain nonhomogeneous bianisotropic medium, called a Tamm medium. As the science and technology of nanostructured metamaterials continues its rapid development, the practical realization of Tamm mediums is edging ever closer. We considered two particular curved spacetimes associated with: (a) spinning cosmic strings, and (b) the Alcubierre drive. For both examples, a Tamm medium formulation was developed which is asymptotically identical to vacuum and is therefore amenable to physical realization. A study of ray trajectories for both Tamm mediums was undertaken, within the geometric optics regime. For the spinning cosmic string, it was observed that: (i) rays do not cross the string's boundary; (ii) evanescent waves are supported in regions of phase space that correspond to those regions of the string's spacetime wherein closed timelike curves may arise; and (iii) a non-spinning string is nearly invisible whereas a spinning string may be rather more visible. For the Alcubierre drive, it was observed that: (i) ray trajectories are highly sensitive to the magnitude and direction of the warp bubble's velocity, but less sensitive to the thickness of the transition zone between the warp bubble and its background; and (ii) the warp bubble acts as a focusing lens for rays which travel in the same direction as the bubble, especially at high speeds.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationMetamaterials
Subtitle of host publicationFundamentals and Applications IV
StatePublished - 2011
EventMetamaterials: Fundamentals and Applications IV - San Diego, CA, United States
Duration: Aug 21 2011Aug 25 2011

Publication series

NameProceedings of SPIE - The International Society for Optical Engineering
ISSN (Print)0277-786X


OtherMetamaterials: Fundamentals and Applications IV
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CitySan Diego, CA

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Applied Mathematics
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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