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Electro-Optically Tunable Metasurfaces for a Comprehensive Control of Properties of Light


Kafaie Shirmanesh, Ghazaleh (2021) Electro-Optically Tunable Metasurfaces for a Comprehensive Control of Properties of Light. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/m554-as73.


The ability to control electromagnetic wavefront is a central key in optics. Conventional optical components rely on the gradual accumulation of the phase of light as it passes through an optical medium. However, since the accumulated phase is limited by the permittivity of naturally existing materials, such a mechanism often results in bulky devices that are much thicker than the operating wavelength.

During the last several years, metasurfaces (quasi-2D nanophotonic structures) have attracted a great deal of attention owing to their promise to manipulate constitutive properties of electromagnetic waves such as amplitude, phase, and polarization. Metasurfaces are ultrathin arrays of subwavelength resonators, called meta-atoms, where each meta-atom imposes a predefined change on the properties of the scattered light. By precisely designing the optical response of these meta-atoms to an incident wave, metasurfaces can introduce abrupt changes to the properties of the transmitted, reflected, or scattered light, and hence, can flexibly shape the out-going wavefront at a subwavelength scale. This enables metasurfaces to replace conventional bulky optical components such as prisms or lenses by their flat, low-profile analogs. Furthermore, a single metasurface can perform optical functions typically attained by using a combination of multiple bulky optical elements, offering tremendous opportunities for flat optics.

The optical response of a metasurface is typically dictated by the geometrical parameters of the subwavelength scatterers. As a result, most of the reported metasurfaces have been passive, namely have functions that are entirely fixed at the time of fabrication. By making the metasurfaces reconfigurable in their phase, amplitude, and polarization response, one can achieve real-time control of optical functions, and indeed, achieve multi-functional characteristics after fabrication. Dynamical control of the properties of the scattered light is possible by using external stimuli such as electrical biasing, optical pumping, heating, or elastic strain that can give rise to changes in the dielectric function or physical dimensions of the metasurface elements.

In this dissertation, we present the opportunities and challenges towards achieving reconfigurable metasurfaces. We introduce a paradigm of active metasurfaces for real-time control of the wavefront of light at a subwavelength scale by investigating different modulation mechanisms and possible metasurface designs and material platforms that let us effectively employ the desired modulation mechanism. We will present multiple electro-optically tunable metasurface platforms. These electronically-tunable schemes are of great interest owing to their robustness, high energy-efficiency, and reproducibility. We will also show the design and experimental demonstration of active metasurfaces for which the tunable optical response can be tailored in a pixel-by-pixel configuration.

The ability to individually control the optical response of metasurface elements has made active optical metasurfaces to be progressively ubiquitous by enabling a wide range of optical functions such as dynamic holography, light fidelity (Li-Fi), focusing, and beam steering. As a result, reconfigurable metasurfaces can hold an extraordinary promise for optical component miniaturization and on-chip photonic integration. Such compact and high-performance devices with reduced size, weight, and power (SWaP) can be used in future free-space optical communications or light detection and ranging (LiDAR) systems.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:Active metasurfaces, Optics, Nanophotonics, Plasmonics, Indium tin oxide
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Engineering and Applied Science
Major Option:Applied Physics
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Atwater, Harry Albert
Group:Kavli Nanoscience Institute
Thesis Committee:
  • Vahala, Kerry J. (chair)
  • Atwater, Harry Albert
  • Scherer, Axel
  • Faraon, Andrei
Defense Date:24 August 2020
Non-Caltech Author Email:ghazal90kafaie (AT)
Record Number:CaltechTHESIS:09172020-190836007
Persistent URL:
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription adapted for Ch. 2 adapted for Ch. 3 adapted for Ch. 5 adapted for Ch. 6 adapted for Ch. 6
Kafaie Shirmanesh, Ghazaleh0000-0003-1666-3215
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:13955
Deposited By: Ghazaleh Kafaie Shirmanesh
Deposited On:21 Sep 2020 15:38
Last Modified:08 Nov 2023 00:12

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