Integrated metasurfaces are used to reimagine recent disruptive optical platforms


Recently, scientists Younghwan Yang, Junhwa Seong and others published a review article entitled “Integrated metasurfaces for re-envisioning a near-future disruptive optical platform”. Metasurfaces continue to attract attention in science and industry because they have unprecedented wavefront control capabilities using arranged sub-wavelength artificial structures. Current research focuses on complete control of electromagnetic characteristics, including polarization, phase, amplitude, and frequency, enabling applications in multiple fields, such as metalenses, beam controllers, metamaterial holograms, and sensors. Current research focuses on integrating these metasurfaces with other standard optical components such as light-emitting diodes, charge-coupled devices, microelectromechanical systems, liquid crystals, heaters, refractive optics, planar waveguides, optical fibers, etc. to achieve miniaturization and commercialization of optics. This review describes and classifies integrated metasurface optical components and discusses their application prospects in metasurface-integrated optical platforms such as augmented/virtual reality, light detection and ranging, and sensors. Finally, several challenges and prospects in this field are presented to accelerate the commercialization of metasurface integrated optical platforms. The review has been published in the journal Light: Science & Applications.

Research background

The metasurface consists of a two-dimensional sub-wavelength artificial structure that can arbitrarily manipulate the output light and can construct compact forms. They demonstrate features such as aberration correction and diffraction finite resolution in high-end imaging applications. In addition, applications such as polarization-selective focus and edge detection of output light controlled by space-engineered polarization have been implemented. More recently, metasurface research has been commercialized through integration with other standard optical components such as LED, CCD, MEMS, liquid crystals, waveguides, optical fibers, and traditional ROE, as shown in Figure 1. These attempts demonstrate that metasurfaces can be embedded in current devices by integrating other optical elements, and also indicate several possible ways to build high-end optical devices with metasurfaces. Although there have been many reviews of metasurface progress, few reports have been reported on the overall concept of integrated metasurfaces in recent photonic devices. This review aims to provide a carefully selected list of integrated metasurfaces that are expected to be used in optics in the near future. The emphasis in this review is on practical use, not just functionality and performance.

Innovative research

This review illustrates the great success of metasurface-based optical systems with high-resolution receivers, polarization-controlled single-photon transmitters, and tunable wavefront controllers. By combining metasurface classical optics, the performance of planar waveguides, optical fibers, and refractive optics is also expanded. Composite metasurfaces provide features such as spatial wavefront control, high-end optical safety, and polarization analysis. In the outlook section, the review provides further directions for metasurface integrated photonic applications, including recent research such as VR/AR, LiDAR, and sensors.

In addition, the review summarizes three major challenges to the commercialization of metasurface-based optical systems. Metasurfaces are mostly manufactured using the CMOS process. CMOS processes offer advantages when metasurfaces are implanted in commercial equipment, but optical module manufacturing processes such as injection molding or milling are often not possible. Compared to ROE and DOE, the CMOS process is a more expensive production method, increasing the total production cost of metasurface integrated optical platforms. The second challenge has to do with the inefficiency of metasurfaces. Although the efficiency of metasurfaces can reach more than 90% at a single wavelength, the efficiency of colorless metalenses (40%) is still lower than that of conventional optical components in the visible range. Another challenge lies in the quantification of metasurfaces. Compared to traditional optical components, the quantification method of metasurfaces has not been harmonized. In the case of colorless metalenses, for example, the groups use different efficiency definitions and measurement systems. Different performance indicators prohibit comparison not only with metasurfaces, but also with other traditional optical system integrated metasurfaces. Despite some challenges, the authors believe that with the further development of nanotechnology, metasurfaces will become a key component in the design of future optical platforms, such as automotive vehicle detectors, wearable device displays, and medical monitors for precision diagnostics. (Source: LightScienceApplications WeChat public account)

Figure 1 Overall concept of metasurface integration technology and prospects for its future applications

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