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Metasurface solves calculus problems as an analog computer

Posted January 13, 2015

Scientists have demonstrated that a 2-D man-made material called a metasurface can perform spatial differentiation and integration, the two main types of calculus problems, when illuminated by a laser beam. Essentially, the metasurface transforms the shape of the incoming light wave profile (the input) into the shape of its derivative or integral (the output). The achievement requires very precise control of light at the nanoscale—specifically, controlling both the amplitude and the phase of the reflected light at the same time.

metasurface computing 1

Plot of the reflection coefficient, r, as a function of nanobrick dimensions. The inset shows a gold nanobrick on top of a glass spacer and gold substrate. This study marks the first time that the amplitude and phase of the reflected light are controlled simultaneously and independently, by varying the dimensions of the nanobricks. Credit: Pors, et al. ©2014 American Chemical Society Read more at:

The researchers, Anders Pors, Michael G. Nielsen, and Sergey I. Bozhevolnyi at the University of Southern Denmark, have published their paper on the new metasurface in a recent issue of Nano Letters.

Somewhat unexpectedly, the work builds on recent research on analog computing, which is based on continuous values, rather than incremental values as used digital computing. The new metasurface uses continuous values of the phase and amplitude of light to perform the calculus operations, making it an example of analog computing.

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