A Turtle under the (Meta)surface

Skyler Palatnick, graduate student
Physics and Astrophysics


Metasurfaces, arrays of thousands of nanoscale structures, are key to the future of optics. Like pixels on a TV, each structure performs a unique microscopic signal manipulation, but viewed from your couch, all you see is your favorite show, or a sea turtle created from a beam of polarized light.

Each “pixel” in this image consists of a simulated nanoscale structure that may populate a metasurface. The shape, size, and orientation of these structures dictate how they affect incident light. The illuminated pixels are transmitting and manipulating light that passes through, while the dark blue pixels are opaque to the signal. The structures have been artificially arranged into the shape of a sea turtle for the purposes of visualization, but this image accurately reflects metasurfaces’ capabilities of producing detailed images with incredible precision from patternless incoming light, as well as their ability to block out light in certain polarization states, much like sunglasses. In my research, I am developing metasurfaces that will improve our ability to image exoplanets.