Transformational Thermodynamics: Cloaks to Keep You Cool
Authors: Sebastien Guenneau and Claude Amra
Affiliation: Institut Fresnel, Centre National Recherche Scientifique, Aix-Marseille University and Ecole Centrale Marseille, France
In 2006, two papers -- published in the same issue of 'Science' -- revolutionized the world of classical optics with the concept of transformation optics (TO). One was by Ulf Leonhardt of University of St Andrews, Scotland, UK  and the other was by John Pendry of Imperial College, London, UK and David Schurig and David Smith of Duke University, USA . The concept of transformation optics allows coordinate changes in an isotropic homogeneous dielectric medium that can lead to a anisotropic heterogeneous metamaterial described by tensors of permittivity and permeability, a fact foreseen twenty years ago in two visionary papers on computational electromagnetic [3,4].
The conceptual breakthrough in 2006 was to note that one can blow-up a point into a finite region using a change of coordinates known from mathematicians working on inverse problems , in order to conceal this region from electromagnetic waves, and to demonstrate the feasibility of an invisibility cloak for microwaves , thereby bringing perhaps the most stunning electromagnetic paradigm of all times into reality!
However, similar changes of coordinates can also be applied to other wave equations, such as linear water waves propagating at the surface of a fluid , pressure waves propagating in a fluid , coupled pressure and shear waves propagating in a solid material [9,10], or flexural waves in thin elastic plates [11,12]. Such metamaterials designed using transformation acoustics (TA) could be used to protect regions from tsunamis (in general from ocean waves) or earthquakes (especially from surface elastic waves known as Rayleigh waves) on a larger scale! They could also be used to improve sound in opera theaters or to hide submarines from sonars (silence cloak).
But that’s not the end of the invisible story, as one can also leave the world of TO and TA and enter the brave new world of transformation thermodynamics (TT, or T2), whereby one now wishes to control diffusion processes, such as heat. Some precursory theoretical and numerical studies on the conduction equation in anisotropic media [5,13,14] have shown that one can control the diffusive heat flow in new ways in the static limit, a fact experimentally demonstrated this year .
Our group at the Fresnel Institute in Marseille and the Ecole Centrale in Paris has shown, under the umbrella of the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS), that TT is a valid concept: one can control the flow of heat when time flows , and it is enough to use concentric layers with isotropic homogeneous conductivity to design invisibility cloaks (to protect a region from heat, see figure 1) and concentrators (to enhance heat exchange in a region). This opens unprecedented routes towards heat insulators -- for instance, for Green houses and also for heat harvesting in photovoltaics.
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