Designing Better Holograms

Nanofabrication adds complexity to optical electronic devices.

Three graphics all with a black background. The first includes two square sheets with small spheres embedded on top of each other, the second is a green star and the third is an orange funnel.
Image courtesy of Oak Ridge National Laboratory
A novel approach to designing artificial materials achieves greater control over light than conventional materials. The materials were demonstrated using holograms projected at independent wavelengths to showcase multiwavelength performance potential.

The Science

Researchers demonstrated novel ways to design and build materials for controlling light. The new materials have two layers of metasurfaces. These are artificial materials only billionths of a meter thick. Conventional single-layer materials limit the complexity of technologies that manipulate light. The novel two-layer design enables a new level of control over light properties. This translates into more functionality for devices that use these materials.

The Impact

The two-layer materials have the potential to improve the versatility and complexity of electronics that work with light. These electronics are key to lifesaving technologies such as medical imaging. They are also essential for computing and communications. The novel materials could lead to important advances in these electronics.


Advanced materials that enable the manipulation of light properties, including phase, amplitude, and polarization, expand the potential for optical devices with broad technology applications. These devices are especially important to next-generation imaging, quantum computing, and secure communications. Developing artificial metamaterials with desirable electric and magnetic properties is an important pathway for adding complexity and functionality to light-based technologies. Previous successes have been achieved in fabricating thin, single-layer metamaterials that enable control of photonic properties (such as phase, amplitude, and polarization) as a whole. But researchers have had less success with independent control of different photonic variables over broad bandwidths and at multiple wavelengths.

Researchers developed an approach to design double-layer materials that can be fine-tuned to control photonic properties individually and at different wavelengths. The scientists fabricated bilayer materials using novel nanostructured architectures that combine posts, disks, and pillars into unique geometries. The layered design increased the materials’ flexibility, thereby enabling devices that provide independent control of phase, amplitude, and polarization at two different wavelengths. To demonstrate the materials’ potential, the researchers constructed sample multiwavelength holograms, multiwavelength waveplates, and three-dimensional holograms.


Jason Valentine
Department of Mechanical Engineering, Vanderbilt University

Ivan Kravchenko
Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences, Oak Ridge National Laboratory


The research was supported by the Office of Naval Research and the National Science Foundation. Materials fabrication was conducted in part at the Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences, one of five Department of Energy Office of Science Nanoscale Science Research Center user facilities.


Zhou, Y., et al. “Multifunctional metaoptics based on bilayer metasurfaces,” Light: Science & Applications 8, 80 (2019). [DOI: 10.1038/s41377-019-0193-3]

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