Metamaterials use structured patterns of a material or combinations of distinct materials to manipulate electromagnetic, acoustic, or other waves. As a rule of thumb, the necessary patterns typically require features with a resolution on the order of one-tenth the wavelength of the waves being manipulated. This can be millimeters to meters for sound or radio waves, down to tens of nanometers for visible light. The former can often be readily made by standard processes including machining, 3D printing, functional 2D printing, and printed circuit board production methods. In contrast, production of microwave, terahertz radiation, infrared, and visible light metamaterials has generally required more expensive, less scalable methods like lithography.
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