An optically driven digital metasurface for programming electromagnetic functions


Metasurfaces are engineered surfaces that consist of subwavelength periodic elements and can be used to manipulate electromagnetic waves. Multifunctional or reconfigurable electromagnetic meta-devices based on a direct-current biasing system can be built using lumped electronic components. However, such meta-devices require bulky power supplies, field-programmable gate arrays, electrical wires and complex control circuits. Here, we report a digital metasurface platform that can be programmed optically to implement electromagnetic functions. Our digital platform has 6 × 6 subarrays, each of which contains 4 × 4 metasurface elements based on electronic varactors integrated with an optical interrogation network based on photodiodes. The interrogation network can convert visible light illumination patterns to voltages and applies bias to the metasurface elements, generating specific microwave reflection phase distributions. To illustrate the capabilities of our approach, we use the optically driven digital metasurface for external cloaking, illusion and dynamic vortex beam generation.

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Fig. 1: OIDP architecture and its programmable EM functions.
Fig. 2: Realization of the subarray and the simulated performance of the ME.
Fig. 3: Proposed OIDP and its performance.

Data availability

The data that support the plots within this paper and other findings of this study are available from the corresponding author upon reasonable request.


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This work was supported by the National Key Research and Development Program of China (2017YFA0700201, 2017YFA0700202 and 2017YFA0700203), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (61631007, 61571117, 61731010, 61735010, 61722106, 61701107 and 61701108), the Postgraduate Research & Practice Innovation Program of Jiangsu Province (KYCX19_0081), the Scientific Research Foundation of Graduate School of Southeast University (YBPY1938), the Foundation of National Excellent Doctoral Dissertation of China (201444) and the 111 Project (111-2-05).

Author information




X.G.Z., W.X.J., C.-W.Q. and T.J.C. conceived the idea of the optically interrogated digital platform. X.G.Z., H.L.J., Q.W., L.B. and Y.L. conducted the theoretical analysis. X.G.Z., H.W.T., L.B. and Z.J.L. conducted the simulations and performed the fabrication and measurements. X.G.Z., W.X.J., S.S., C.-W.Q. and T.J.C. wrote the manuscript. All authors discussed the results and commented on the manuscript.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Wei Xiang Jiang or Cheng-Wei Qiu or Tie Jun Cui.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

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Supplementary Information

Supplementary Figures 1–9, Table 1, and Notes 1–5.

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Zhang, X.G., Jiang, W.X., Jiang, H.L. et al. An optically driven digital metasurface for programming electromagnetic functions. Nat Electron 3, 165–171 (2020).

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