Metamaterials for Space Sandpit Meeting: “Spacecraft performance – Sustainable, safe and affordable access to and operation in space”

Date: Tuesday 16th January 2024

Format: In person

Location: University of Sheffield

Registration deadline: Friday 22nd December

Registration form here (Please note there is a limited number of spaces available so registration does not guarantee attendance)


Metamaterials have the potential to improve the performance of space systems from the launch stage through to in-space operation. By offering compact designs (mass and size), cost can be reduced while still maintaining the required performance. Their novel properties also offer ways to improve system safety across a range of operating environments, new approaches improving the performance of existing solutions and to open up new unexplored capability. As well as supporting existing stakeholders in the space sector, metamaterials focused solutions provide opportunities for new stakeholder entry into the sector.

The aim of this sandpit is to provide an opportunity for space sector stakeholders to discuss current and future technical challenges with metamaterials researchers, which will lead to the formation of collaborations and development of projects which create metamaterials solutions relevant to the space sector. These collaborations and projects will ultimately lead to prototype designs, space validation and future launch opportunities for metamaterials focused technology, furthering the commercial potential of metamaterials in the UK.


Draft Timetable:

Networking meal the evening of Monday 15th January

Timetable for Tuesday 16th January:

09.30 – Intro

09.45 – What is a metamaterial?

10.00 – Keynote 1: Paul Febvre (Chief Technology Officer at the Satellite Applications Catapult)

10.30 – Break

11.00 – Initial round table discussions

12.00 – Lunch

13.00 – Keynote 2: Professor Matthew Santer (Imperial College London)

13.30 – Round table discussions

14.30 – Break

15.00 – Project pitching and forward plan

16.00 – Facilities tour (Royce Discovery Centre, University of Sheffield)

17.00 – Finish


Topics for the sandpit:

Mechanical Structure and Impact Protection

Metamaterials provide a mechanism to improve the performance of several areas of a spacecraft or launcher’s mechanical structure. This includes structural vibration or acoustic isolation with both improved attenuation characteristics and lightweight designs, which can be both integrated into the structured or retrofitted to existing structures. Metamaterials for compact impact protection, e.g. low volume during atmospheric pressure, pushed to a high volume in space is also a promising area. More generally, metamaterials provide an approach to reduce both mass and volume of current designs for mechanical structures, which retaining specified characteristics, such as rigidity. Multifunctional metamaterials which are designed to provide added value through capability in more than one area are also promising areas of application, for example structural vibration control and impact protection.

Thermal, Electromagnetic and Plasma protection

Metamaterials provide solutions to several problem areas associated to operation in the extreme space environment. This includes creating high performance, foldable/deployable or lightweight solutions for thermal protection, to provided improved temperature control and heat shielding of spacecraft systems and instruments. Conformal and reconfigurable electromagnetic and plasma shields to provide protection from natural and unnatural events, for both unmanned and manned (e.g. spacecraft, moon base, etc) missions. Multifunctional metamaterials is also another promising area to provide added value with minimal additional volume/mass e.g. Compact/integrated EM shielding and power generation, or compact/integrated EM and thermal shielding.

Power generation/transmission

Metamaterials provide the potential to provide novel or improved solutions in several areas related to onboard power generation and transmission. This includes compact/integrated and steerable metamaterial transmitters and receivers for power beaming. Improved designs for foldable solar panels, which could potentially utilise solar concentration for spacecraft or planetary/moon base power generation. Thermal metamaterials for energy harvesting, e.g. from large temperature gradients and multifunctional energy harvesting metamaterials to provide added value with minimal added volume/mass, e.g. thermal shielding combined power generation, are other areas of potential application.


Metamaterials are applicable to a range of areas related to current and future propulsions technology. Due to the novel and wide range of properties which metamaterials can achieve, solar sails is one area of application, for example metamaterial solar sails with improved reflective and thermal control properties, in addition to improvements on diffractive solar sails already designed using metamaterials. Metamaterials also potentially provide better solutions to making solar sails conformal so their direction and effective surface area can be controlled. Another area of potential application is ion drives improved by using metamaterials to better control plasma acceleration.

Posted on 23rd November 2023

Key info

  • Date: 16 Jan 2024
  • Time: 9:30 am - 5:00 pm
  • Location: University of Sheffield
  • Registration deadline: 22 December 2023