Materials with novel optical properties developed under DARPA’s Extreme Optics and Imaging (EXTREME) program are providing new capabilities for government and military imaging systems.
EXTREME, a basic research program in DARPA’s Defense Sciences Office, successfully developed new optical components, devices, systems, architectures, and design tools using engineered optical materials, or metamaterials.
Metamaterials are composed of unit cells that are much smaller than the operating wavelength, allowing for greater manipulation of light. Early examples of metamaterials were used to design and build multifunctional elements that seemingly defied standard “laws” of reflection and refraction. These were limited in efficiencies and in sizes less than a millimeter, prohibiting their integration into optical systems. EXTREME addressed these challenges by improving efficiencies of lenses based on metamaterials, expanded their apertures to centimeter-scale, developed methods to reduce the effect of optical aberrations, and explored new optical design space and associated tradeoffs in size, weight, and power (SWaP) afforded by such metalenses.