Journal of Infrared, Millimeter, and Terahertz Waves

, Volume 38, Issue 9, pp 1067–1084 | Cite as

Recent Progress in Terahertz Metasurfaces



In the past decade, the concept of metasurfaces has gradually dominated the field of metamaterials owing to their fascinating optical properties and simple planar geometries. At terahertz frequencies, the concept has been driven further by the availability of advanced micro-fabrication technologies that deliver sub-micron accuracy, well below the terahertz wavelengths. Furthermore, terahertz spectrometers with high dynamic range and amplitude and phase sensitivity provide valuable information for the study of metasurfaces in general. In this paper, we review recent progress in terahertz metasurfaces mainly in the last 5 years. The first part covers nonuniform metasurfaces that perform beamforming in reflection and transmission. In addition, we briefly overview four different methodologies that can be utilized in realizing high-quality-factor metasurfaces. We also describe two recent approaches to tuning the frequency response of terahertz metasurfaces using graphene as an active medium. Finally, we provide a brief summary and outlook for future developments in this rapidly progressing field.


Metasurfaces Beamforming Fano resonance Electrically induced transparency Graphene Tunability 

1 Introduction

At the dawn of this new century, metamaterials had emerged as a promising scheme for exotic wave manipulation [1]. The scheme promised access to bulk materials with virtually any combination of the effective permittivity and permeability values, including those not available from natural materials. Achieving full control over permittivity and permeability could lead to ground-breaking phenomena and applications such as negative refraction [2], subdiffraction imaging [3], and invisibility cloaking [4]. More importantly, the concept of metamaterials was appealing to terahertz technology, for which suitable materials are limited. Although the concept of 3D metamaterials along with those unprecedented applications are very attractive, it poses several technological challenges. Since the concept is established on the resonance mechanism, dissipation loss becomes one great restriction for practical applications, in particular when involving multilayer structures. Gain materials can compensate the loss to a certain extent, but unfortunately such materials are not available at terahertz frequencies. Additionally, fabricating bulk structures must contend with stringent requirements on dielectric-metal arrangement and 3D geometrical tolerances.

In the past, metasurfaces was considered as a building block of metamaterials, since these surfaces were constructed as a simple proof of concept towards more complicated 3D structures. As those challenges of 3D metamaterials have yet to be fully overcome, the concept of metasurfaces itself has gradually evolved into an ultimate aim to wave manipulation. These metasurfaces are appealing from many different aspects. Their planar configuration is amenable to standard lithography techniques, and can readily incorporate tuning materials. Additionally, unlike 3D metamaterials, metasurfaces are fully compatible with integrated platforms. Owing to a relatively short interaction length and relaxed choices of materials, dissipation loss can be very low. As a consequence, a metasurface with multiple resonance modes can be designed for broadband operation. While this metasurface concept largely benefits from the long development of metamaterials, the definitions of effective permittivity and permeability meant for bulky materials become less relevant to the properties of these fully flat structures. The properties of interest are rather amplitude, phase, and polarization responses. Indeed, metasurfaces cannot entirely substitute metamaterials as some applications demand 3D constructions.

This recent evolution from metamaterials to metasurfaces motivates this review article. At terahertz frequencies, nearly 10 years ago, research activities on metamaterials focused on strong electric and magnetic responses in novel resonator designs, bandwidth broadening, frequency-agile operation, and perfect absorption [5]. Lately, we have witnessed a shift in the research activities towards gradient metasurfaces (so-called flat optics), electromagnetically induced transparency (EIT) and Fano resonances, and graphene-based metasurfaces. Specifically, a recent revitalization of reflectarray and transmitarray concepts [6] via generalized Snells laws [7] have triggered enormous interest in gradient metasurfaces for beamforming applications. Moreover, Fano-like, EIT [8, 9], and toroidal dipole resonance [10] concepts have been thoroughly investigated for their potential to achieve high quality-factor (Q-factor) metasurfaces that can be used for plethora of applications such as sensing and slow-light devices [11, 12, 13, 14]. Furthermore, graphene with its unique optical properties has offered a new degree of freedom to enable different kinds of metasurfaces tunability through modifying its Fermi energy [15, 16, 17, 18]. Thus, this review article focuses on the latest progresses in these sub-areas of terahertz metasurfaces, and covers some relevant theories that should be accessible by a broad range of audience working in the terahertz field. The manuscript is organized as follows: Section 2 explains the concept of beamforming and related terahertz implementations in both reflection and transmission modes. In Section 3, we review four different approaches to achieve high Q-factor metasurfaces. Next, Section 4 discusses two approaches that effectively use graphene to tune the response of metasurfaces. Finally, the conclusion and outlook are presented in Section 5.

2 Metasurfaces for Beamforming

2.1 General Concept

Beamforming or wavefront shaping is a process that modifies the spatial phase distribution of free-space propagating waves to create particular beam patterns either in the near-field or far-field. These beam patterns are for example focal spot, deflection, vortices, contoured beams, and holograms. The concept is important to terahertz technology, since it delivers functionalities that are required by a wide range of applications. Particularly, beamforming for high-gain radiation can alleviate free-space path loss, which becomes more severe at shorter wavelengths [19]. In principle, conventional passive components such as lenses and parabolic mirrors can be considered as a type of beamformers, because their curved geometries lead to different path lengths and thus different phase delays. More sophisticated components include phased arrays and leaky-wave antennas [20, 21, 22] that convert guided waves to free-space waves with designable phase profiles.

As an alternative, metasurfaces can realize beamformers by exploiting nonuniform resonant inclusions to impart spatially varying phase delays onto waves incident from free space. As in metamaterials, the spacing between these resonators must remain below a wavelength to avoid diffraction. In this form, nonuniform metasurfaces, so-called flat optics [7], reconcile well with the concept of transmitarrays and reflectarrays, well known in the microwave community [6]. Nevertheless, the revitalization has led to novel designs and applications, with realizations across the electromagnetic spectrum. In general, these nonuniform metasurfaces possess compactness and a greater degree of freedom in beam control, compared with the conventional optics. They can be designed for polarization diversity and conversion. Existing planar fabrication technology streamlines the fabrication process, while offering sub-micron accuracy that is much needed for terahertz components. The surface can readily incorporate tunable components such as semiconductors and MEMs for active operation. All these benefits promise unprecedented functionalities not achievable with conventional optical components.

A typical design process for these beamforming metasurfaces is as follows. Initially, a set of different resonators are designed to cover the full phase cycle with either maximum transmission or reflection power. To attain this, the complex response of each resonator can be determined from simulation with a uniform resonator array that accounts for coupling with neighboring resonators. Separately, the required phase map for a metasurface can be calculated from either analytical or numerical approaches, depending on the desired radiation pattern. This calculated phase map is then wrapped into the 360-degree phase range and then spatially discretized to comply with the unit cell size. This wrapped and discretized phase distribution can then be readily realized by an array of subwavelength resonators chosen from a lookup table that relates the required phase response to the aforementioned resonator designs. It should be noted that some optimization of this nonuniform arrays might be necessary to mitigate the effect from coupling among different resonators.

2.2 Principle of Beamforming with Metasurfaces

This section discusses the spatial phase distribution on a metasurface required to form a desirable beam pattern. As an illustration, we discuss the case of constant phase gradient, which performs beam deflection in response to plane-wave illumination. This gradient phase distribution can be considered as a general case towards more specific metasurface configurations; by varying the phase gradient on the surface, different radiation patterns can be attained. Figure 1 shows a hypothetical metasurface placed at the boundary between two lossless dielectric regions. This metasurface contains a series of resonators that has a fixed phase difference between adjacent resonators of Δϕ = ϕ1ϕ0 in one direction and a subwavelength unit cell size of a. This constant phase gradient imparts an in-plane wavevector of Δϕ/a to the incident plane wave. The phase-matching condition along this interface determines the angle for the reflected wave, 𝜃r, as
$$ k_{1}\sin\theta_{i} +\frac{\Delta\phi}{a} = k_{1}\sin\theta_{r} $$
and the angle for the transmitted wave, 𝜃t, as
$$ k_{1}\sin\theta_{i} +\frac{\Delta\phi}{a} = k_{2}\sin\theta_{t} $$
Here, 𝜃i denotes the angle of incidence, and k{1,2} are wavenumbers in the respective regions. It is noted that in the absence of phase gradient Δϕ, these equations become Snell’s laws of reflection and refraction, and for Δϕ = 2π, we arrive at the grating equation. From Eqs. 1 and 2, we can infer that an incident plane wave is deflected into a predesigned direction via a phase gradient introduced by a planar 2D array of resonators. The operation of this metasurface is closely related to conventional blaze gratings, which employ a non-planar surface to subdue the 2π phase ambiguity in diffraction [23].
Fig. 1

Conceptual illustration of gradient metasurface. An incident wave can be deflected into a desirable direction, depending on the phase gradient of this metasurface

We can further consider Eqs. 1 and 2 over a wide frequency range. If the phase difference between adjacent resonators Δϕ is designed to be constant over a certain bandwidth, we will observe the beam-squint effect where the direction of the outgoing wave becomes strongly frequency-dependent. This effect is not desirable in those applications requiring broadband operation. On the other hand, if Δϕ is a linear function of frequency, then the beam angle will remain fixed. A caveat is that spatial phase wrapping cannot take place at the same location for every frequency within the bandwidth.

2.3 Implementations at Terahertz Frequencies

The phase distribution discussed in Section 2.2 can be realized by using different types of subwavelength resonators. Typically, a complete set of these resonators must cover the 360-degree phase range and must have either maximum transmission (transmitarrays) or reflection (reflectarrays). This subsection overviews some implementations of terahertz metasurfaces, based on different resonator types. This overview does not intend to cover every implementation, but rather some explanatory designs with distinguishable features and functions.

A first group of beamforming metasurfaces to be discussed is the reflectarray. A typical design comprises a resonator array separated from a ground plane by a spacer. An example unit cell is illustrated in Fig. 2a. When excited by an incident wave, the resonators together with the ground plane create oscillating current loops, equivalent to an in-plane magnetic dipole. On resonance, the magnetic dipole imparts zero phase to the reflected electric field. This is in contrast to a bare ground plane that inverts the phase of the electric component upon reflection by 180 degrees. As such, by varying the resonator size around the resonance, the phase response of this planar structure can be tuned in a full cycle at a given frequency, as shown in Fig. 2b. A number of realizations have been reported to date. The first terahertz reflectarray at 1 THz utilizes isotropic square patches to deflect an incident wave into an off-specular direction [24]. This is followed by polarization-dependent designs, shown in Fig. 3a, for polarization beam splitting with low cross polarization [25, 26]. The operation can be extended to dual-band and tri-band by packing more than one set of resonators onto the surface [27, 28]. In these earlier designs, the unit cell size is about one third of the wavelength, and thus, the performance is partly limited by angular sensitivity and discretized phase error. The unit cell size can be reduced by using graphene-based resonators with plasmonic wave confinement at the cost of efficiency [29] or by combining different types of resonators to achieve 360-degree phase range [30]. A completely different resonator design in Fig. 3b employs dielectric resonator antennas (DRAs) that support a magnetic dipolar resonance via displacement currents [31, 32]. This design achieves near to 100% efficiency by eliminating dissipation losses inside the metallic resonators and dielectric spacer.
Fig. 2

Reflection phase response of an array of square patch on a ground plane. a Unit cell of square patch and b the corresponding phase response from simulation. The response is observed at 1 THz with varied patch size. At resonance, the patch supports a magnetic dipole to impart zero phase response, while off resonance the phase approaches ± π. Here, the spacer thickness is 15 μm, the unit cell size is 150 μm, and the relative permittivity of the spacer is 2.35

Fig. 3

Examples of terahertz reflectarrays and transmitarrays. a Polarization sensitive reflectarray separating TE- and TM-polarized waves into different directions [25]. b Reflectarray based on dielectric resonator antennas (DRAs) for high-efficiency operation [32]. c Transmitarrays based on complementary C-shaped split-ring resonators for wave deflection [33]. ((a, c) Reprinted with permission from the Optical Society, and (b) from American Chemical Society)

Beamforming with metasurfaces in transmission requires distinctive resonator configurations. Although an electric dipole supported by a single metal layer can invert the phase of an incident electric field by 180 degrees, this results in minimal transmission. In those conventional transmitarrays at microwave and millimeter-wave frequencies, it was proven that at least three stacked layers of metallic resonators are necessary for independent control of a pair of electric and magnetic dipoles [34, 35]. This results in a full phase coverage with high transmission. This approach has been adopted in some terahertz transmitarrays. One numerical study involves two metal layers, each with a metal grid and patches with varying sizes [36]. The simulation shows high transmission amplitude with a limited phase range. In another design, four metallic layers with ring slots were demonstrated to cover a phase cycle with good performance [37]. Owing to a freedom in phase control, an anisostropic unit cell constructed from three metal layers can function as a half-wave plate that alters the sense of rotation for circular polarization. By progressively rotating every cell around its own optical axis, the spatial transmission phase can be controlled for beamforming with 76% efficiency observed in simulation [38]. Apparently, terahertz transmitarrays of this type are not prevalent, most likely due to complexity in multi-layer fabrication.

An alternative design requires only a single metal layer of V-shaped resonators [7]. These resonators sustain two resonance modes in the two orthogonal axes, and the phase can cover one cycle for the transmitted cross-polarization component. Many terahertz implementations for various beam patterns were based on this principle with V-shaped [39], complementary V-shaped [40, 41], C-shaped [42, 43], and complementary C-shaped [44] resonators. An example of complementary C-shaped resonators can be seen in Fig. 3c. In an attempt to counteract beam squint, two sets of resonators, namely C-shaped and complementary C-shaped resonators, were designed to operate at two discrete frequencies [45]. The phase gradient for each resonator set is independently, as determined by using Eq. 2 for a fixed beam deflection angle. Nevertheless, in all these cross-polarization designs, the transmission efficiency is about 25% or lower. The efficiency can be improved to above 50% by sandwiching these V-shaped resonators between two layers of polarizers that are orthogonal to each other [46].

Most of the terahertz metasurfaces for wavefront control are not capable of tuning or beam steering. There are a few examples of tunable terahertz flat optics that are worth mentioning here. In a simplest form, the on/off switching of a transmitted patterned beam has been experimentally achieved by employing a Schottky junction underneath complementary C-shaped resonators [33] or thermally controlled VO 2 layer backing V-shaped resonators [47]. It has been suggested via simulation that graphene in the form of square patches [48] or continuous stripes [49] on a ground plane can be used to achieve a full-cycle tunable phase response. Further to that, a similar graphene resonator reflectarray has been numerically shown to tune to a fixed focal spot in broadband [50]. The application of graphene to terahertz metasurfaces will be expounded in Section 4.

3 High Q-Factor Metasurfaces

3.1 General Concept

Different terahertz applications such as thin-film sensing [51, 52, 53, 54], slow-light devices [55, 56, 57], and narrow-band filters rely on designing high Q-factors metasurfaces [58, 59]. For sensing purposes, high-Q-factor (defined as the ratio of resonance frequency to the full width at half maximum) metasurfaces enable high-sensitivity sample detection via precise measurement of a small resonance shift. Generally speaking, detecting biochemical analytes at a single-molecule level could lead to a new generation of label-free bioanalysis apparatus that will enable high-throughput applications [60, 61, 62, 63]. Moreover, slow-light devices can find applications in delay lines, dispersion compensation, improving light-matter interactions, and enhancing nonlinear effects [64, 65]. Conventional metasurface configurations consist of 2D arrays of sub-wavelength metallic resonators, and high-Q resonance can be achieved by suppressing dissipation and radiation losses. At terahertz frequencies, the losses associated with the dielectric substrates are negligible where high resistivity substrates are used. Moreover, Ohmic loss in metal is also very small. So, we are mainly left with the radiation losses that should be minimized in order to achieve high Q-factor resonances.

Near-field electromagnetic coupling among neighboring resonators has a non-negligible role and hence contributes to the final response. For example, the coupling between closely spaced elements within a unit cell may lead to hybridization or spectral splitting of their original individual resonances [67, 68]. So, the Q-factor can be improved and the sharpness of the resonance can be enhanced through such kind of coupling. Thorough numerical simulations are needed in order to give profound insights into the engaged coupling mechanisms. To this end, terahertz near-field imaging for spatially and temporally resolved electromagnetic fields on metasurfaces proves advantageous in recent years to uncover the existent coupling [58, 66]. For example, Fig. 4 shows the measured electric and magnetic near-fields excited on the split ring resonators (SRRs) by a normally incident terahertz wave [66]. The fundamental LC-eigenmode of the SRR is observed at 0.15 THz. The next electric quadrupole higher mode can also be observed.
Fig. 4

Terahertz near-field scan a of a single SRR at its eignemodes showing the in-plane electric (arrows) and out-of-plane magnetic (color code) near-fields. b Transmission through rectangular arrays of SRRs with gx = 380 μm and gy varied from 380 μm to 653 μm (bottom to top) showing their fundamental resonances and transmission minima that originate from the excitation of lattice modes. (Reprinted with permission from [66]. Copyright 2009, The Optical Society)

Far-field coupling through the diffraction modes of metasurfaces can have a strong impact on the effective response [66, 69, 70]. As such, one of the critical dimension of any metasurface is the periodic lattice constant that can affect far-field results. Hence, the metamaterial arrays have been measured in the far-field and indeed the eigenmodes of the structures are also observed as characteristic transmission minima as shown in Fig. 4b for different lattice periods of gy from 380 to 653 μm [66]. There is a clear trend of resonance narrowing with the increase in the lattice constant. The effect of lattice constant has been thoroughly studied at the LC resonance and it was shown that the first order of diffractive lattice mode can simply be calculated as Pc = λ0/n, where P is the lattice constant, c is the speed of light in free space, λ0 is the wavelength at the resonance frequency, and n is the refractive index of the substrate [71]. The highest Q-factor can be achieved by using a lattice constant that is very close to the above value, but a little bit less in order to avoid operating at the first order of diffraction. On the other hand, in order to evaluate the merit of any proposed scheme to achieve high Q-factor, it is advisable to choose the lattice constant to be much less than the first order of diffraction.

3.2 Approaches to High Q-Factor

Now, we turn to the main topic of this section and try answering the question: How can we minimize the radiation losses in metasurfaces? There are at least four different techniques to achieve that. The first technique utilizes Fano-like resonances via coupling between two or more oscillators. An asymmetric SRR offers a very good example of that through the possibility of exciting two destructively interfering bright modes that can be excited in two unequal sections of the resonator shown in the inset of Fig. 5 [72]. This interference leads to an asymmetric Fano-like resonance in transmission characteristics and a high Q-factor as shown in Fig. 5. To achieve that, the two sections of the asymmetric SRR element need to be very similar but not the same, which implies strict requirements on fabrication. Nevertheless, Q-factor as high as 50 can be achieved using this approach [72]. Moreover, it turned out that the conductivity of the resonators has a strong influence in determining the Q-factor and the amplitude of the Fano resonances for a low degree of asymmetry in terahertz Fano metasurfaces [14]. Furthermore, photoswitching of Fano resonances has been recently demonstrated via optical pumping [73].
Fig. 5

Measured (a) and simulated (b) amplitude transmission spectra for symmetric and asymmetric split ring array for an E-field orientation perpendicular to the gap. (Reprinted with permission from [72]. Copyright 2011, The Optical Society.)

The second approach is known as electromagnetically induced transparency (EIT) in metasurfaces and involves the excitation of two modes, bright and dark. Hybridization of these two modes produces a narrow peak resonance which in analogy to that observable in atomic systems. Several metasurface configurations have been proposed in order to observe EIT in such artificial structures [8, 9, 74, 75]. In one of the configurations, a radiative bright mode excited using a cut-wire (CW) is coupled with a subradiative dark mode in an SRR-pair as shown in Fig. 6a [75]. Q-factor as high as 227 can be achieved using this apprach [12].
Fig. 6

a Schematic of the unit cell. b Microscopic image of the fabricated metamaterial. scale bar, 100 μm. c Measured amplitude transmission spectra of the sole-CW (pink colored), SRR-pair (orange colored) and the EIT metamaterial sample (olive colored). The insets in c are the structural geometries of the sole-CW, SRR-pair and the EIT metamaterial samples from left to right, respectively, with the indicated polarization. (Reprinted by permission from Macmillan Publishers Ltd: Nature Communications [75], copyright (2012))

The third approach is based on coupling of two dark modes by matching two resonators in such a way that a gentle break in the symmetry occurs as shown in the inset of Fig. 7 [76]. Multipole analysis has shown that for an isolated split-ring resonator with the polarization of the incident electric field perpendicular to the gap and a propagation direction normal to the SRR, the scattered field is entirely dominated by an electric dipole moment. It is worth mentioning that for most of the trapped modes reported, the scattered field is dominated by a magnetic dipole moment. In contrast, this technique is based on the coupling of two quadrupole dark modes. The newly emerging resonance (f3) is as a result of an electric dipole moment as well as by magnetic and an electric quadrupole moments [76]. This is a clear signature consistent with the asymmetric coupling of the dark modes of the joint SRR (JSRR) in the specific illumination configuration. Figure 7 shows an example of the measured and the simulated transmission amplitude of conventional SRRs and the joint SRRs structures. Q-factor as high as 41 was measured in this case.
Fig. 7

a Measured and b simulated transmission amplitudes for the SRR and JSRR structures, respectively. The picture insets show microscopy images of the SRR and JSRR structures with the relevant dimensions, for an excitation with the E-field oscillating perpendicular to the gaps. (Adapted with permission from [76]. Copyright (2014) by the American Physical Society)

The fourth approach is based on the excitation of toroidal dipole, which can be viewed as a circular head-to-tail arrangement of magnetic dipoles as shown in Fig. 8a [77]. In contrast to the Fano-type resonance, the toroidal dipole does not require coupling between two oscillators in metasurfaces. It is generally accepted that the toroidal dipole occurs as a result of destructive interference between the toroidal and electric dipole moments, which are both radiating. In turn, radiation losses are suppressed due to the above-mentioned interference in the far-field regime. Thus, one can expect a very high Q-factor in toroidal metasurfaces. Figure 8a shows one of the recently proposed structures where two double split SRRs are merged to form a single double-ring SRR with four split gaps. Figure 8b shows the simulated and measured amplitude transmittance with no shift of the gap (d = 0 μm). For a strong toroidal dipole excitation, one would need a 3D structure in order to have a complete magnetic field circulation. Nevertheless, using only a single 2D planar metasurface, the toroidal resonance is clearly observed as shown in Fig. 8b. Other configurations have also been investigated to achieve high-Q-factor metasurfaces including supercells of resonators with mirrored single slit resonators [78] and rotated SRR supercells [79]. Moreover, supercell metasurfaces have been configured for multiple trapped modes [80] and ultrahigh angular sensitivity [81].
Fig. 8

Sharp toroidal resonances in planar terahertz metasurfaces. (Reprinted with permission from [77]. Copyright 2016, John Wiley and Sons)

Generally speaking, the observed high-Q-factor using almost all the aforementioned techniques is accompanied with a small resonance strength. The Q-factor typically decreases exponentially with a constant increase in the resonance strength. Therefore, it is important to explore this trade-off between the Q-factor and the resonance strength. A dual-gap rectangular SRR that consists of two unequal arms of metallic wires has been utilized for this purpose [82]. The figure of merit (FoM) has been estimated as a product of resonance depth and quality factor. The study involved the asymmetry parameter in the Fano resonator, defined as α = (l1l2) × 100%/(l1 + l2), where l1 and l2 are the length of the two wires that form the square shape of the SRR. This asymmetric parameter can be swept by moving one or two of the gaps of the SRR. As can be seen from Fig. 9, the best FoM performance of 6.2 with Fano resonance strength of 0.31 and Q-factor of 20 lies at the length difference equal to 12 μm, or equivalently the asymmetry parameter of 6%. Moreover, the optimal performance range of FoM is shown as the shaded region in Fig. 9 [82].
Fig. 9

FoM evolution versus structural asymmetry parameter. The shaded area indicates the optimal range where the FoM is higher than 5.4. In this range, the Q-factor is between 34 and 13, and the intensity is between 0.16 to 0.44. (Reprinted with permission from [82]. Copyright 2015, John Wiley and Sons)

4 Graphene-Based Metasurfaces

There has been a great deal of interest in utilizing the unique properties of graphene for various applications. The extraordinary quantum characteristics of graphene, represented by its relativistic massless Dirac-fermion physics [83, 84, 85], have great potential for pioneering applications in high-speed optoelectronics and photodetection [86, 87]. Moreover, the ability to tune the Fermi level, which can be adjusted via an applied gate voltage [88, 89], holds a great potential to develop new switching devices across the electromagnetic spectrum. This capability is highly relevant to metasurfaces that are typically functional within a narrow spectral band due to their resonance nature. By placing graphene sheets in contact with these metasurfaces, it is possible to tune the resonance frequency of the composite by tuning the optical conductivity of graphene. Due to the limited photon energy at the terahertz frequency range, intraband transitions in graphene have been utilized to demonstrate broadband electrical modulation [90], and patterned graphene structures have been shown to exhibit resonant response [15, 91]. While graphene itself has been used to achieve that, we are more interested in this paper on how graphene can be utilized to achieve tunable metasurfaces.

Figure 10a shows a unit cell of a metal-ring array. Each ring has four gaps where graphene stripes are placed [36]. The resonance frequency of the terahertz filter can then be modified by varying the conductivity of the graphene stripes. The conductivity of graphene can be tuned by manually stacking different numbers of graphene layers onto the metasurface [36]. Terahertz time domain spectroscopy of reference samples showed that the average optical conductivity per graphene layer was 0.3 mS. Figure 10b shows the measured transmittance versus frequency for the metasurface as a function of the number of graphene layers. As the graphene conductivity increases, the resonance frequency is red-shifted. This experiment demonstrates that the terahertz resonance can be adjusted via tuning the graphene conductivity, which, in this case, was performed by means of altering the number of graphene layers [36]. The resonance frequency shift in the fabricated device was 40%. In practice, such devices can rely on an electrostatic control of the conductivity, which can be realized by employing self-gated graphene pairs, or ion-gel gates [36, 90].
Fig. 10

a Terahertz resonator unit cell; the inner radius (R1) is 200 μm and the outer radius (R2) is 220 μm. The gap width is 1 μm. Graphene strips are placed in between the small gaps. Its conductivity was tuned by stacking multiple graphene layers. b Measured terahertz transmittance versus frequency as a function of graphene conductivity, varied with the number of graphene layers. The extracted optical conductivity was 0.3 mS per graphene layer. (Reprinted from [36], with the permission of AIP Publishing)

The next example deals with loss-driven mechanism to achieve a wide-range of phase modulation [18]. The structure of the graphene metasurface is schematically shown in Fig. 11a. The metasurface is a five-layer structure starting from the bottom layer of an Al film that was evaporated onto an SiO 2/Si substrate. Subsequently, a layer of cross-linked photoresist SU8 is coated, and then an array of Al patch resonators was fabricated. Finally, a layer of graphene is transferred onto the structure and subsequently covered by a layer of gel-like ion liquid [18]. A gate bias applied between the graphene layer and a top gate is used to tune the resistivity of graphene and thus to modulate the loss of the resonators [18]. A variation in the graphene resistivity, associated with the gate voltage, drastically changes the resonance behavior of the proposed metasurface, leading to a phase modulation of ±180 . This is demonstrated with the incident terahertz wave polarized along the long axis of the Al resonators. The reflectance and associated phase spectra for varying gate voltages are shown in Fig. 11b and c, respectively [18].
Fig. 11

a Schematic of the graphene-based phase modulator. b, c Relative reflectance and phase at different gate voltages. (Reprinted with permission from [18]. Copyright 2015, American Physical Society)

5 Conclusion and Outlook

In this review article, we have discussed how the field of metamaterials has been dominated by metasurfaces in recent years. This shift to planar structures has lifted many restrictions associated with fabrication and performance of metamaterials. This new perspective of the field has come with new functions and capabilities. For terahertz metasurfaces, we have seen increasing activities in beamforming, high-Q resonance, and graphene-based tunability. Yet, many challenges must be overcome. For beamforming metasurfaces, we can anticipate (i) adaptive beam patterns that can be achieved by incorporating tunable materials and (ii) bandwidth enhancement potentially with multilayer fabrication processes. With regard to the high-Q resonators, more practical applications can be foreseen such as high-throughput sensing of biomolecular and biochemical samples. Additionally, graphene and other novel monolayer materials will be more prominent in active terahertz metasurfaces. We expect that these recent and future contributions in the field will have an impact on terahertz technology that has been gradually migrating from lab-based equipment to practical devices. The concept of metasurfaces will be able to fulfill this goal with high-performance integrated components.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Biomedical Engineering Department, College of EngineeringUniversity of DammamDammamKingdom of Saudi Arabia
  2. 2.School of Electrical and Electronic EngineeringThe University of AdelaideAdelaideAustralia

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