Tunable Metasurfaces: Controlling Light in Space and Time

Soham Saha, Deesha Shah, Vladimir M. Shalaev and Alexandra Boltasseva

Active control of optical properties could take meta­surface applications to the next level.

figureLast year, researchers in the U.S. and Italy demonstrated a reconfigurable flat lens that combined metasurface and liquid-crystal technology. [G. Strangi and F. Capasso]

Over the last two decades, metasurfaces—engineered surfaces that manipulate light through spatially arranged nanoscale features, or “meta-atoms”—have emerged as a powerful concept for tailoring and controlling light’s fundamental properties. Conventional optical elements such as lenses, phase shifters, polarizers and filters are bulky, requiring a length scale of many wavelengths to change the flow of light passing through them. Optical metasurfaces, in contrast, can manipulate phase, amplitude and polarization with a single layer of optical nanoantennas with deeply subwavelength dimensions. The prospect of replacing conventional bulky optical components with such ultrathin, flat structures makes metasurfaces a crucial part of the design toolkit for miniaturizing future optical components—and for enabling entirely new functionalities.

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