Metaoptics is a field of science and technology that deals with the study and development of advanced optical materials and technologies. If I had to describe it in just a few words (risking a stick from purists)? I would argue that meta-optics will change our current mirrors and lenses with which we make optical systems, and replace them with nanomaterials.
With its increasingly advanced developments we will reach unprecedented levels. We will surpass the optical paradigms we have used for 3000 years for our visual human-machine interfaces, such as our phone cameras, microscopes, drones and telescopes.
Thanks to the discovery of negative refractive index materials that can make perfect lenses, this industry has exploded in recent years. With thousands of new research and scientific publications every year, it's not hard to believe that robots and autonomous vehicles will soon have eyes that can see more than the human eye can. Much more. In short, metaoptics will transform what was only science fiction into devices that we will use every day.
To sum up all the current advances in the field, Nature photonics commissioned an analysis from two great leaders of metaoptical research, Dragomir Neshev e Andrey Miroshnichenko. I refer you to reading this to get an idea, You find it here.
To summarize very briefly, the two researchers have found that the field of metaoptics is on the verge of a real avalanche. Meta-optical elements will pave the way for new applications within Industry 4.0 such asInternet of things, the autonomous vehicles, the wearable devices, augmented reality and remote sensing. Large companies such as Apple, Google and Samsung have demonstrated the importance of this technology by investing heavily in the sector and hiring specialists in metaoptics, especially for the development of vision systems. Other companies like Metalenz, NILT technologies e Meta Materials Inc they are already harnessing the properties of light to create commercial devices used in biosensing and diagnostics. The authors point out that the unconventional features of metaoptics could also be used for solar sails, LiFi and thermal management.
Metaoptics, the challenges to face
Like all scientific fields on the verge of a boom, metaoptics too needs the definitive leap in quality. At the moment, say Neshev and Miroshnichenko, the most complex one is to adapt industrial processes to the production of meta-optical components, which are often based on a transparent substrate that is not compatible with the current CMOS standard. And that's not the only obstacle. The study also found that creating tunable or reconfigurable metamaterials to enable dynamic components, such as color-changing pixels on a television screen, is still challenging.
Solving these challenges will pave the way for a huge variety of applications. Telephones, computers, cars and hyper-miniaturized meta-optical satellites capable of interfacing with 3D vision or augmented reality technologies. In the distant future they will literally be our "super vision", and perhaps they will also improve the biological one we have as a dowry.
It will be something never seen before (it must be said).