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Seminar on metamaterials for defence applications

On 29 September 2015, thirty experts from Ministries of Defence, European Commission, NATO staff, industry and academia participated in an European Defence Agency (EDA) seminar to address the future impact of metamaterials technologies on defence capabilities. The seminar was co-organised by the Capability Technology groups (CapTechs) on Materials & Structures, Technologies for Components and Modules, Radiofrequency Sensors Technologies, and Electro-Optical Sensors Technologies.

Metamaterials are engineered structured materials used principally to control and manipulate electromagnetic fields and acoustic waves. Their properties come both from those of the materials they are made of, as well as from their geometrical arrangements. 

High level experts on metamaterials and defence technologies gathered to discuss on the potentials of metamaterials for different defence applications and related future challenges. In order to raise the awareness for these technologies, background information was provided on current work regarding metamaterials at EU level, on relevant activities in various CapTechs, on defence capability needs and on areas were further research is needed. The discussion focused on metamaterials defence applications, such as metamaterials to enhance the performance of radar antennas, their use as radar absorbers and cloaking, both regarding acoustics and microwave signals. Also the challenges and the way ahead regarding measurements, fabrication or modelling were addressed during the meeting.

The main outcome of the seminar is the identification of radar antennas and absorbers as the most promising defence applications. On the other hand, wide-band tunable surfaces are the most wanted applications of metamaterials, although they are far to be achieved. However, with a view to developing different applications, SMEs and academia need military requirements to better align their research to defence needs. Moreover, industry requires understanding of manufacturing tolerances and their performance in real conditions. These issues, together with the fact that metamaterials technologies are mainly civil driven, make the identification of the right area and right moment to start investing in a major challenge for defence actors. 

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