Many experts believe that the creative mind is free to discover new ideas and breakthroughs while at rest. In this case, researchers discovered a material sciences innovation from their children's play time with Legos.

Inspired by the fun of playing with Legos, an international team of researchers from Tianjin University of Technology and Harvard University have used the idea of assembling building-blocks to make the promise of next-generation materials a practical reality.

Publishing online in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Mar, 20, Nan Yang from the Laboratory for the Design and Intelligent Control of Advanced Mechatronical Systems and Jesse Silverberg from the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering removed a key bottleneck slowing down the translation of scientific progress to commercial applications.

Silverberg described it like this: "Metamaterials are driving a revolution in material science. The current approach of building every-day stuff turns out to be limited because the materials we work with have a relatively narrow range of properties and capabilities."

Metamaterials go beyond what's found in nature by assembling simple elements into repeating patterns. At large scales, these smaller components influence the larger construction in unusual ways. Yang noted "The variety of applications is growing. Today we see mechanical metamaterials used to shape the flow of vibrational waves like earthquakes to protect buildings. Tomorrow, who knows what will be next."

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