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Groundbreaking discovery unlocks new frontier in mind control technology

[Dec. 4, 2023: JJ Shavit, The Brighter Side of News]

Scientists have advanced the first step towards real-time, remote and wireless mind control of metamaterials. (CREDIT: Creative Commons)

Metamaterials and their two-dimensional counterparts, metasurfaces, have been revolutionizing the field of materials science with their extraordinary properties. These artificial materials have sparked innovation and the development of advanced functional materials with unprecedented capabilities. Now, researchers are pushing the boundaries of metasurfaces even further by exploring the realm of mind-controlled functional metasurfaces.

In a groundbreaking study published in eLight, a collaborative team of scientists from the Air Force Engineering University, the National University of Singapore, and other institutions has taken the first steps towards achieving real-time, remote, and wireless mind control of metamaterials. Led by Professor Shaobo Qu, Professor Jiafu Wang, and Professor Cheng-Wei Qiu, this research offers a glimpse into a future where our thoughts can manipulate materials.


Metasurfaces: A World of Possibilities

Metamaterials have captivated researchers from various fields due to their exceptional physical properties. These materials have ushered in a new era of designing artificial substances, expanding the horizons of advanced functional materials. Metasurfaces, as the two-dimensional counterpart to metamaterials, provide scientists with an unprecedented degree of freedom in manipulating electromagnetic (EM) waves.


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Programmable metasurfaces (PMs), achieved through on-site programming, have emerged as a promising avenue for creating materials with multiple or switchable functions. These PMs can be further integrated with sensors or controlled by pre-defined software. What sets them apart is their self-adaptability, which greatly enhances their response rate by eliminating the need for human intervention.

However, the switches among different functions on these PMs typically rely on manual operation, utilizing wire-connected, manually-controlled, and non-real-time switching mechanisms. This limitation has spurred researchers to explore the creation of a comprehensive framework that can enable remote, wireless, real-time, mind-controlled functional metasurfaces—a concept that could revolutionize the way we interact with materials.


Mind Control Meets Metasurfaces

In their pioneering paper, titled "Remotely Mind-controlled Metasurface via Brainwaves," the team led by Professors Qu, Wang, and Qiu introduced a framework for realizing this ambitious goal. Traditionally, many scenarios require human involvement to control metasurfaces directly. However, the team proposed a radical departure from this conventional approach.

A schematic diagram shows that people use brainwave control to manipulate electromagnetic waves, which can be extended in some illustrative scenarios, such as attention monitoring, reconfigurable antenna, fatigue monitoring, etc. (CREDIT: Ruichao Zhu, Jiafu Wang, Tianshuo Qiu, Yajuan Han, Xinmin Fu, Yuzhi Shi, Xingsi Liu, Tonghao Liu, Zhongtao Zhang, Zuntian Chu, Cheng-Wei Qiu, Shaobo Qu)

They reasoned that since the human brain generates brainwaves during the thinking process, collecting and harnessing these brainwaves could serve as control signals for metasurfaces. This paradigm shift not only promised to enable users to control metasurfaces with their thoughts but also held the potential to enhance the response rate of these materials, ushering in a new era of intelligent metasurfaces.


Wireless Transmission of Brainwaves

To achieve remote control of metasurfaces through brainwaves, the research team devised a method of wirelessly transmitting brainwaves from the user to the controller via Bluetooth. The overarching goal was to leverage these brainwaves to control the electromagnetic response of programmable metasurfaces effectively. This groundbreaking approach led to the development of a Remotely Mind-Controlled Metasurface (RMCM), where users could manipulate scattering patterns with their thoughts.

In the process of brainwave signal extraction and transmission, the TGAM module extracts brainwave signals and converts them to attention value. And the attention information is transmitted remotely from the Bluetooth module to the Arduino, which outputs different voltages by discriminating values. (CREDIT: Ruichao Zhu, Jiafu Wang, Tianshuo Qiu, Yajuan Han, Xinmin Fu, Yuzhi Shi, Xingsi Liu, Tonghao Liu, Zhongtao Zhang, Zuntian Chu, Cheng-Wei Qiu, Shaobo Qu)

The results of their simulations and experiments were nothing short of remarkable. The team demonstrated that the user's brainwaves had a direct and highly efficient influence on the outcome, showcasing superior control and switching rates compared to any existing model or product on the market. Furthermore, the design exhibited flexibility, with room for customization to enhance the precision and accuracy of the equipment.


A Glimpse into the Future

The implications of this research are far-reaching and could have a profound impact on various fields. The integration of intelligent algorithms holds the promise of further enhancing the capabilities of mind-controlled metasurfaces. As a result, these materials could find applications in diverse areas such as health monitoring, 5G/6G communications, and smart sensors.

In the microwave anechoic chamber, the operator remotely controls the metasurface coding sequence through the brainwave module which will affect the scattering mode of EM waves. The test reveals that EM wave can be controlled via the people’s mind. (CREDIT: Ruichao Zhu, Jiafu Wang, Tianshuo Qiu, Yajuan Han, Xinmin Fu, Yuzhi Shi, Xingsi Liu, Tonghao Liu, Zhongtao Zhang, Zuntian Chu, Cheng-Wei Qiu, Shaobo Qu)

Imagine a future where materials respond to our thoughts, adapting and transforming to meet our needs. Mind-controlled metasurfaces represent a paradigm shift in materials science, opening up endless possibilities for innovation and discovery. The study by Professors Qu, Wang, and Qiu and their team serves as a crucial milestone on the path to realizing this extraordinary vision.


As scientists continue to explore the potential of mind-controlled metasurfaces, we can look forward to a world where the boundaries between mind and matter blur, giving rise to a new realm of possibilities.

For more science news stories check out our New Innovations section at The Brighter Side of News.


Note: Materials provided above by The Brighter Side of News. Content may be edited for style and length.


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