California researchers have created a new material that captures a sound wave’s fine details, holding promise to revolutionize ultrasound imaging.

The University of California-Berkeley researchers say they used the same principles that help create a guitar’s complex tones to develop the substance — called an ultrasonic metamaterial — that responds differently to sound waves than any substance found in nature.

The researchers say the technology they developed could be used to vastly enhance image resolution of ultrasound within a decade, while, at the same time, allowing for the miniaturization of acoustic devices at any given frequency.

We’ve been very interested in developing artificial materials with extraordinary properties that do not exist in nature, said Mechanical Engineering Professor Xiang Zhang, principal investigator of the study.

Zhang’s interest in acoustic metamaterials was inspired by the five years he and his group have already spent exploring optical metamaterials. The goal is to create artificial materials that will be useful in both optical and acoustical applications, Zhang said.

The study, Ultrasonic metamaterials with negative modulus, appears online and in the journal Nature Materials.