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Novel Study Discloses the Hidden Potential of Metasurfaces

New metasurfaces have been designed by researchers from the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) for several years to manipulate light depending on its polarization state.

Novel Study Discloses the Hidden Potential of Metasurfaces.
An illustrative example of a polarization-analyzing hologram. When illuminated with laser light, the metasurface hologram implements a far-field in which light is directed on the basis of its incident polarization state. In this particular example, the hologram is designed to produce a pattern of illustrations of different polarization states. Image Credit: Capasso Lab/Harvard SEAS.

Although the research has driven advances in polarization technology, metasurface technology has gained considerable momentum compared to what was realized by scientists.

The hidden potential of these metasurfaces has now been exposed by researchers and, in a new study, they have shown optical devices that can manipulate the polarization state of light with an unparalleled degree of control.

This research shows that the ability to switch between holographic images that need not be limited to just two polarization states. Our new metasurface can encode an unlimited number of holographic images or manipulate light in virtually infinite number of directions based on a very large number of polarization states.

Federico Capasso, Study Senior Author and Robert L. Wallace Professor of Applied Physics, Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences

Capasso is also a Vinton Hayes Senior Research Fellow in Electrical Engineering at Harvard SEAS.

The study shows a new approach to regulate polarized light with metasurfaces. This newly developed method helped the scientists to engineer a holographic image with a polarization-tunable response throughout the image itself. It could result in applications in different fields such as displays, microscopes, imaging and also astronomy. The study was published in the Science Advances journal.

This advancement is general and could be applied to almost any kind of optical system that uses polarized light. Specifically, this suggests that metasurfaces could be used in new types of laser systems whose output light could be engineered based on lights polarization state, or perhaps even in telescope systems where similar types of optics are already being used to aid in the detection of Earth-like exoplanets.

Noah Rubin, Study First Author and Postdoctoral Fellow, Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences

Holography has always been a popular technique to record and display information. We have taken a fundamental principle of holography and generalized it in a way that greatly expands the information capacity of this rather old technique,” stated Aun Zaidi, a graduate student at SEAS and co-lead author of the paper.

Furthermore, the goal of the researchers is to understand these devices in a better way, such as how they could be utilized in real-world applications. The Harvard Office of Technology Development defends the intellectual property concerning this project and has also been looking for commercialization opportunities.

The study was co-authored by Ahmed Dorrah and Zhujun Shi. It was financially supported by the National Science Foundation under grant no. DGE1144152 and 1541959, and the Air Force Office of Scientific Research under grant no. FA9550-19-1-0135.

Journal Reference:

Rubin, N. A., et al. (2021) Jones matrix holography with metasurfaces. Science Advances.

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