The Detect Theme is dedicated to the integration of metasurfaces into photodetectors to expand their functionality and develop the next generation of imaging systems from the visible to the LWIR regions. Electromagnetic waves carry a wealth of information in the form of spectral content, polarisation and phase that cannot be directly accessed with current detection technologies that sense only intensity. This ‘hidden’ knowledge is central to applications in areas as diverse as LIDAR, remote sensing, in-vivo imaging of biological tissue, optical communications, microscopy of living cells and the identification of objects for machine vision. The filters and other optical components required to tap this extensive information add to the size, complexity and cost of optical systems and increasing attractive computational methods also require energy and compromise speed.

Furthermore, although silicon-based photosensors are inexpensive and widely available, these sense only short-wavelength visible light and access to longer wavelengths in the near, short-wave, mid-wave and longwave infrared regions of the spectrum requires expensive, bulky and noisy detectors. Yet this region of the spectrum is an enabler for major applications in Industry 4.0 such as night vision, passive thermal imaging, and imaging through objects opaque to visible light.

Detect comprises sub-programs of work that will develop meta-optical devices for advanced multi-modal detection and their integration into non-imaging detectors and meta-optical enhanced imaging harnessing the visible and infrared spectral radiation bands. Metasurfaces will revolutionise access to hitherto unavailable optical information and deliver ultra-compact optical components. This will result in savings in cost, materials and energy in manufacturing and expand access to state-of-the-art devices.