flat optics

Seeing a Bright Future for Flat Optics

The invention of the MOSFET enabled the miniaturization and mass production of transistors, which marked the birth of Silicon Valley. Similarly, we now find ourselves approaching another technological inflection—Flat Optics.

Flat Optics, or Engineered Optics, is an exciting paradigm in optics where collections of nanostructures, or “metasurfaces,” are fabricated on flat surfaces using semiconductor technologies to generate almost any light-manipulating function—lenses, polarizers, color filters and more. Applications in mobile sensing, AR/VR, biotechnology, LIDAR and other fields will soon start to move from bulky and conventional refractive optics to metasurfaces, which not only give benefits in size and scale but also broad functionality and dynamic control. 

Why Flat Optics now? Parallel to the discovery of transistors in the 1960s, researchers were also discovering the concept of metasurfaces and demonstrating them in the microwave wavelength. Nevertheless, the technology to produce these devices for visible light wavelengths did not exist. Now, with the necessary industrial expertise in fabrication and material control at the nanoscale coupled with improved computational power for simulation and design, we are at the beginning of a new technological era for the field of optics. To accelerate the commercialization of Flat Optics, a larger collaborative effort is needed to scale the technology and deliver its full benefits to a wide range of applications.

With over 50 years of materials engineering leadership, Applied Materials is well positioned to help advance Flat Optics. As part of our efforts, we are hosting an Open Innovation Workshop today focusing on Flat Optics, to accelerate discovery and promote cooperation between industry, start-ups and academia. The event brings together thought leaders and world experts from different parts of the ecosystem to share results and discuss ideas about how to move the field forward. Applied’s Open Innovation Workshops are designed to enable a more distributed and participatory approach to innovation that will allow the industry to identify bottlenecks in technology and find the best path to scaling.

The Open Innovation Workshop will focus on:

  • New applications for nano-structured optics
  • Advanced design methods and optimization for metasurfaces
  • Dynamic and tunable metasurfaces
  • Metasurfaces beyond consumer electronics: defense, automotive and medicine


Invited speakers: 

  • Professor Andrea Alu, City University of New York
  • Professor Harry Atwater, California Institute of Technology
  • Professor Mark Brongersma, Stanford University 
  • Professor Federico Capasso, Harvard University 
  • Professor Jennifer Dionne, Stanford University 
  • Professor Jonathan Fan, Stanford University
  • Professor Andrei Faraon, California Institute of Technology
  • Professor Arka Majumdar, University of Washington
  • Professor Owen Miller, Yale University 
  • Steve Robbins, ImagineOptix


Applied Materials speakers:

  • Dr. Om Nalamasu, CTO
  • Dr. Robert Visser, VP Engineered Optics 
  • Dr. Ludovic Godet, Senior Director, Engineered Optics 
  • Dr. Michael Stewart, Director, Applied Ventures 
  • Dr. Yongan Xu, Director & Physicist, Engineered Optics
  • Dr. Jinxin Fu, Manager & Physicist, Engineered Optics
  • Dr. Guannan Chen, Process Engineer, Engineered Optics


Start-ups participating:

  • TunOptix—tunable metasuface optics for machine vision and AR/VR
  • Brelyon—reimagining immersive displays
  • Pumpkinseed—genomic sequence detection with Flat Optics


Connect and Join

Visit our collaboration site to learn more about Applied’s open innovation strategy and how we network with startups, research institutes, leading universities and more. Read about our previous Open Innovation Workshop on quantum technology. You can also follow our open innovation group on LinkedIn and Twitter to join our community of entrepreneurs, academics and industry partners building the next wave of emerging technologies.

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