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Sub-picosecond steering of ultrafast incoherent emission from semiconductor metasurfaces


The ability to dynamically steer sub-picosecond pulses from a monolithically integrated source is a critical milestone for the fields of nanophotonics and ultrafast optics. Reconfigurable dielectric metasurfaces have demonstrated the potential to exert dynamic control over the properties of light at sub-wavelength scales using spatial phase engineering. However, active manipulation of incoherent light sources remains a challenge, as current phase-sensitive metasurfaces developed for coherent sources cannot be directly applied. Here we theoretically predict and experimentally demonstrate sub-picosecond steering of ultrafast incoherent emission from a light-emitting metasurface over a 70° range. We utilize a monolithic III–V (GaAs) metasurface with embedded (InAs quantum dot) light sources positioned on a reflective Bragg (AlAs/Al0.3Ga0.7As) mirror to achieve a large optically induced phase change near the emission wavelength (1.25 μm). We use a spatial light modulator to structure a strong optical pump (800 nm) and project it onto the resonant metasurface to create reconfigurable spatial momentum profiles that dynamically steer the ultrafast (140 fs) quantum dot emission. Such dynamic spatiotemporal control of incoherent sources can enable new technologies for high-speed communications, holography and remote sensing.

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Fig. 1: Operational principle of incoherent emission steering.
Fig. 2: Metasurface design and characterization.
Fig. 3: Spatiotemporal control of light emission.
Fig. 4: Beam-steering of PL.

Data availability

All data generated or analysed during this study are included in this published Article (and its Supplementary Information files).


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This work was supported by the US Department of Energy (DOE), Office of Basic Energy Sciences, Division of Materials Sciences and Engineering and performed, in part, at the Center for Integrated Nanotechnologies, an Office of Science User Facility operated for the US DOE Office of Science. Sandia National Laboratories is a multi-mission laboratory managed and operated by National Technology and Engineering Solutions of Sandia, LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Honeywell International, Inc., for the US DOE’s National Nuclear Security Administration under contract no. DE-NA0003525. This Article describes objective technical results and analysis. Any subjective views or opinions that might be expressed in the paper do not necessarily represent the views of the US DOE or the United States Government. This study was funded by the US DOE Basic Energy Science Program (BES20017574).

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Authors and Affiliations



P.P.I., N.K. and I.B. designed the study. P.P.I. performed the numerical simulations and fabricated the device. S.A. grew the support wafer in MBE. P.P.I., N.K. and S.D.G. measured the ultrafast results. P.P.I. wrote the paper with input from all the authors under the supervision of M.B.S. and I.B.

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Correspondence to Prasad P. Iyer or Igal Brener.

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Nature Photonics thanks the anonymous reviewers for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Table of contents. 1. Refractive index shift in GaAs with optical pumping. 2. Measurement set-up for pump–probe reflection measurements. 3. Momentum matching model for predicting PL steering angle. 4. Control experiments on unpatterned epitaxial films. 5. Visible reflection spectra of the metasurface. 6. Semiconductor device stack grown using molecular beam epitaxy (MBE). 7. Far-field emission pattern from the metasurface for a pump grating order of ±25.

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Iyer, P.P., Karl, N., Addamane, S. et al. Sub-picosecond steering of ultrafast incoherent emission from semiconductor metasurfaces. Nat. Photon. (2023).

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