The metalens technology exploits the interactions of light and matter at the nanometer scale to achieve unprecedented control of the behavior of light. Conventional optics refract, reflect, and polarize light as it passes through the bulk of a material, while the Capasso Lab’s innovations use minuscule patterns and structures at the surface to redirect light at will. The resulting technology is a wafer-thin chip not only capable of disrupting the field of digital imaging, but also poised to enable new types of ultracompact devices for 3D sensing, augmented reality, virtual reality, and more.
“It has been rewarding to see Metalenz successfully emerge as a startup following a decade of research in my group that has ranged from generalizing the centuries-old Snell’s law of refractive optics to the realization of flat lenses that outperform conventional ones,” said Capasso, who is the Robert L. Wallace Professor of Applied Physics and Vinton Hayes Senior Research Fellow in Electrical Engineering at Harvard SEAS. Capasso is a co-founder of Metalenz and a board member of the company.
Over the years, dozens of researchers in Capasso’s lab have contributed to the innovations. In leaps and bounds, with a vision of what might be possible, they developed a richer understanding of the fundamental physics, demonstrated new methods of fabrication, incorporated advanced materials, and computationally designed metasurface architectures that produce the desired optical effects across broadband wavelengths. Their work was supported largely by federal funding from the U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and the National Science Foundation, as well as by OTD’s Physical Sciences and Engineering Accelerator as the technology approached commercial readiness.
“The metalens platform has the potential to drive a revolution in imaging and sensing, from the ubiquitous cameras in cell phones, cars, and self-driving vehicles to AR/VR, and in the future to widespread use in drones and CubeSats,” said Capasso. “I am grateful to Harvard OTD for encouraging and supporting, all along, the creation of Metalenz.”