Metamaterial optics provide dramatic reductions in size and weight compared with traditional refractive optics. Nanohmics, Inc., and Andrea Alù’s group at the City University of New York propose to develop ultrathin, light-weight, high-transmittance optics based on microfabricated gradient metagratings. A metagrating is an array of polarizable metamaterial particles with a period comparable to the optical wavelength. By spatially varying particle geometries, a microfabricated metagrating lens can focus light with minimal optical aberration and diffraction-limited precision. Because of their extremely low size and mass, metagrating optics will be ideal for sensors, imagers, and optical communication applications in probes and other SWaP-constrained space vehicles. Initial development will center on transmission-mode beam shaping optics that can be used in space-based remote sensing or optical communication subsystems. In Phase I the team will demonstrate the feasibility of a high-transmittance metagrating beam shaping optic by designing, microfabricating and testing a small proof-of-principle metagrating lens operating at wavelength ~1.55 µm, with TRL 3. Phase I laboratory test results, and modeling and simulation, will strengthen the design for a larger, polarization-independent, beam shaping prototype to be fabricated in Phase II. The Phase II prototype will advance to TRL 5 and be laboratory tested and made available to NASA for independent testing. The proposed metagrating prototype will be fabricated using CMOS-compatible materials and standard microfabrication techniques to reduce costs and provide a rapid route to commercialization for beam shaping and other light-weight optics. Longer term, the team proposes the integration of the metagrating technology into planetary missions as part of NASA's Science Mission Directorate (SMD), including for SWaP-constrained scientific exploration of Earth and other objects in the Solar System.
Smaller and lower-cost spacecraft for exploration of Earth, the planets, and other Solar System objects require imaging, remote sensing, and optical communication subsystems with small size, weight and power consumption (SWaP). The proposed high-performance, low-SWAP metagrating optics will make them ideal for planetary missions as part of NASA's Science Mission Directorate (SMD). Low-SWaP metagrating optics reduce propulsion requirements and overall system power requirements, saving load costs aboard space vehicles.
The proposed ultrathin, high-performance metagrating optics will be valuable for military, industrial, energy, medical, and consumer applications – including observation satellites or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for situational awareness. Reductions in the size and mass of optical systems will accelerate the deployment of advanced, compact, affordable, multi-mission payloads.