Anomalous Collisions of Elastic Vector Solitons in Mechanical Metamaterials


We investigate via a combination of experiments and numerical analyses the collision of elastic vector solitons in a chain of rigid units connected by flexible hinges. Because of the vectorial nature of these solitons, very unusual behaviors are observed: while, as expected, the solitons emerge unaltered from the collision if they excite rotations of the same direction, they do not penetrate each other and instead repel one another if they induce rotations of the opposite direction. Our analysis reveals that such anomalous collisions are a consequence of the large-amplitude characteristics of the solitons, which locally modify the properties of the underlying media. Specifically, their large rotations create a significant barrier for pulses that excite rotations of the opposite direction and this may block their propagation. Our findings provide new insights into the collision dynamics of elastic solitary waves. Furthermore, the observed anomalous collisions pave new ways towards the advanced control of large amplitude mechanical pulses, as they provide opportunities to remotely detect, change, or destruct high-amplitude signals and impacts.

Physical Review Letters