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  1. Rapid advancements in autonomous systems and the Internet of Things have necessitated the development of compact and low-power image sensors to bridge the gap between the digital and physical world. To that end, sub-wavelength diffractive optics, commonly known as meta-optics, have garnered significant interest from the optics and photonics community due to their ability to achieve multiple functionalities within a small form factor. Despite years of research, however, the performance of meta-optics has often remained inferior compared to that of traditional refractive optics. In parallel, computational imaging techniques have emerged as a promising path to miniaturize optical systems, albeit often at the expense of higher power and latency. The lack of desired performance from either meta-optical or computational solutions has motivated researchers to look into a jointly optimized meta-optical–digital solution. While the meta-optical front end can preprocess the scene to reduce the computational load on the digital back end, the computational back end can in turn relax requirements on the meta-optics. In this Perspective, we provide an overview of this up-and-coming field, termed here as “software-defined meta-optics.” We highlight recent contributions that have advanced the current state of the art and point out directions toward which future research efforts should be directed to leverage the full potential of subwavelength photonic platforms in imaging and sensing applications. Synergistic technology transfer and commercialization of meta-optic technologies will pave the way for highly efficient, compact, and low-power imaging systems of the future.

     
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available October 9, 2024
  2. Abstract

    Endoscopes are an important component for the development of minimally invasive surgeries. Their size is one of the most critical aspects, because smaller and less rigid endoscopes enable higher agility, facilitate larger accessibility, and induce less stress on the surrounding tissue. In all existing endoscopes, the size of the optics poses a major limitation in miniaturization of the imaging system. Not only is making small optics difficult, but their performance also degrades with downscaling. Meta-optics have recently emerged as a promising candidate to drastically miniaturize optics while achieving similar functionalities with significantly reduced size. Herein, we report an inverse-designed meta-optic, which combined with a coherent fiber bundle enables a 33% reduction in the rigid tip length over traditional gradient-index (GRIN) lenses. We use the meta-optic fiber endoscope (MOFIE) to demonstrate real-time video capture in full visible color, the spatial resolution of which is primarily limited by the fiber itself. Our work shows the potential of meta-optics for integration and miniaturization of biomedical devices towards minimally invasive surgery.

     
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  3. Extended depth of focus (EDOF) optics can enable lower complexity optical imaging systems when compared to active focusing solutions. With existing EDOF optics, however, it is difficult to achieve high resolution and high collection efficiency simultaneously. The subwavelength spacing of scatterers in a meta-optic enables the engineering of very steep phase gradients; thus, meta-optics can achieve both a large physical aperture and a high numerical aperture. Here, we demonstrate a fast(f/1.75)EDOF meta-optic operating at visible wavelengths, with an aperture of 2 mm and focal range from 3.5 mm to 14.5 mm (286 diopters to 69 diopters), which is a250×elongation of the depth of focus relative to a standard lens. Depth-independent performance is shown by imaging at a range of finite conjugates, with a minimum spatial resolution of9.84  μm(50.8 cycles/mm). We also demonstrate operation of a directly integrated EDOF meta-optic camera module to evaluate imaging at multiple object distances, a functionality which would otherwise require a varifocal lens.

     
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  5. Controlling the propagation of optical fields in three dimensions using arrays of discrete dielectric scatterers is an active area of research. These arrays can create optical elements with functionalities unrealizable in conventional optics. Here, we present an inverse design method based on the inverse Mie scattering problem for producing three-dimensional optical field patterns. Using this method, we demonstrate a device that focuses 1.55-μm light into a depth-variant discrete helical pattern. The reported device is fabricated using two-photon lithography and has a footprint of 144 μm by 144 μm, the largest of any inverse-designed photonic structure to date. This inverse design method constitutes an important step toward designer free-space optics, where unique optical elements are produced for user-specified functionalities. 
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  6. Abstract Unprecedented material compatibility and ease of integration, in addition to the unique and diverse optoelectronic properties of layered materials, have generated significant interest in their utilization in nanophotonic devices. While initial nanophotonic experiments with layered materials primarily focused on light sources, modulators, and detectors, recent efforts have included nonlinear optical devices. In this paper, we review the current state of cavity-enhanced nonlinear optics with layered materials. Along with conventional nonlinear optics related to harmonic generation, we report on emerging directions of nonlinear optics, where layered materials can potentially play a significant role. 
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