This week in Nature Materials, Princeton researchers from MIRTHE report that they have created a new type of “metamaterial” that has the rare ability to bend light in the opposite direction from all naturally occurring materials.

Metamaterials are an exotic new class of materials that, according to Kevin Bullis of Technology Review, “could be used to make flat and distortion-free lenses, powerful microscopes, and even cloaking devices that make objects invisible.”

The problem with metamaterials thus far, however, has been that they haven’t proved suitable for practical applications. But Bullis says that the Princeton metamaterials are higher performing and easier to manufacture, “perhaps bringing these applications closer to reality.”

“It’s quite an important step,” Igor Smolyaninov, a research scientist at the University of Maryland who works with metamaterials, tells Technology Review. “It’s much less expensive than anything else that people are doing.”

You can read the full Technology Review piece here. The Princeton metamaterials story is also getting seriously dug on Digg.

Computer simulation courtesy Anthony Hoffman