Around the bend

Natural materials refract light in one direction — when you place a straw in a glass of water, it always appears to bend toward the surface — but researchers from Princeton, Oregon State University, and Alcatel-Lucent have found a way to reverse that angle. The group, led by electrical engineering graduate student Anthony Hoffman, created a novel material that bends light in the opposite direction of naturally occurring materials by arranging semiconductors in tiny alternating patterns. The patterns combine to modify the material’s collective properties, according to a University release. The new “optical metamaterial,” described in detail in a paper published online by Nature Materials, could be used in microscopy, communications, and sensor technology.