Skip to main content

Nature Nanotechnology

  • Si

Solving integral equations in free space with inverse-designed ultrathin optical metagratings

Authors Andrea Cordaro, Brian Edwards, Vahid Nikkhah, Andrea Alù, Nader Engheta & Albert Polman


As standard microelectronic technology approaches fundamental limitations in speed and power consumption, novel computing strategies are strongly needed. Analogue optical computing enables the processing of large amounts of data at a negligible energy cost and high speeds. Based on these principles, ultrathin optical metasurfaces have been recently explored to process large images in real time, in particular for edge detection. By incorporating feedback, it has also recently been shown that metamaterials can be tailored to solve complex mathematical problems in the analogue domain, although these efforts have so far been limited to guided-wave systems and bulky set-ups. Here, we present an ultrathin Si metasurface-based platform for analogue computing that is able to solve Fredholm integral equations of the second kind using free-space visible radiation. A Si-based metagrating was inverse-designed to implement the scattering matrix synthesizing a prescribed kernel corresponding to the mathematical problem of interest. Next, a semitransparent mirror was incorporated into the sample to provide adequate feedback and thus perform the required Neumann series, solving the corresponding equation in the analogue domain at the speed of light. Visible wavelength operation enables a highly compact, ultrathin device that can be interrogated from free space, implying high processing speeds and the possibility of on-chip integration.

Related Products