Compressive ultrahigh-speed imaging beyond trillions of frames per second using spatiotemporally encoded metasurfaces

Project: Research project

Project Details


Capturing ultrafast phenomena in their actual time of occurrence plays a central role in the discovery of new scientific principles and the development of new technologies. For example, the abilities to monitor transient molecular states using the pump-probe spectroscopy have provided new insight into chemical reactions. The premise for a typical pump-probe method is that identical phenomenon will be induced by identical pump pulses, affording the opportunity to study it repeatedly. However, many ultrafast phenomena are either non-repeatable or irreversible, and thus they cannot be imaged using the conventional pump-probe techniques. Compact, affordable, and single-shot ultrafast imaging technology beyond trillions of frames per second remains an unmet need for the observation of non-periodic and irreversible transient events. Merging an artificially engineered synthetic surface, called metasurface, and the compressive sensing technology, the research aims to develop a compact, metasurface-enabled, single-shot imaging system for capturing the dynamic properties of ultrafast phenomena and uncovering the unknown or hidden laws that govern such dynamics. The program will closely integrate diverse research, teaching, and outreach activities together to enhance photonics education infrastructures at the university and will form a unique platform that will make broad impacts on human resource and education. The proposed research will also generate opportunities at both the college and K-12 levels and the related results will be used for designing exhibitions for local educational events.

The overarching goal of this research program is to integrate two cutting-edge technologies – the optical metasurface and compressive sensing – together to develop a compact, cost-effective, single-shot imaging system enabling ultrahigh-speed imaging beyond trillions of frames per second. The system can be used for capturing the dynamic properties of ultrafast phenomena and uncovering the unknown or hidden laws that govern such dynamics. Empowered by the metasurface – a synthetic surface consisting of subwavelength-sized elements (meta-atoms) that locally engineer the electromagnetic response on the nanoscale – the ultrafast imaging system encodes the incoming optical information using a metasurface-enabled 'pixelized' encoder both in space and in time. The encoded information is then captured by a normal camera. By leveraging the compressive sensing algorithm and the high temporal resolution of the metasurface encoder, a three-dimensional ultrafast movie revealing information in (x, y, z, t) dimensions is computationally reconstructed for an ultrafast non-periodic event, which is previously not possible.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

Effective start/end date10/1/219/30/24


  • National Science Foundation: $445,000.00


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