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VISORSURF: A Hardware Platform for Software-driven Functional Metasurfaces. A new European project to produce materials with software-programmable electromagnetic behavior.

Dec 18, 2017

What if the laws of electromagnetism could be customized, rather than being simply adhered to? A new research project studies this direction, exhibiting paradigm shifting potential for wide range of applications. The project with the acronym VISORSURF is producing a first-of-its kind material, the HyperSurface, which can sense electromagnetic waves impinging upon it and alter them in ways dictated by software.

A core concept of VISORSURF are the metasurfaces, a concept from Physics, which has recently enabled the realization of novel objects with engineered and even "unnatural" electromagnetic functionalities. VISORSURF introduces a new kind of networked metasurfaces that can host metasurface functionalities described in software, such as parametric wave steering, absorbing, filtering and polarizing. The HyperSurface is a merge of properly-designed metasurfaces and novel electronic nano-controllers, resulting in a reconfigurable metasurface, whose properties can be changed via a software interface. The controllers receive programmatic directives and perform simple alterations in the metasurface aspect of HyperSurfaces, adjusting their overall electromagnetic behavior and attaining the required high-level functionality.

From another innovative aspect, the project enables the translation of advanced concepts of Physics in software, which nowadays constitutes the “common language” for all scientific fields, promoting open-access to knowledge. Thus an additional ambition is to bring the physics behind metasurfaces into the realm of software developers, eventually treating the electromagnetic behavior of objects as an app, as shown in Fig. 1.

Figure 1 The electromagnetic behavior of the HyperSurface can change through an app. 

VISORSURF is a highly interdisciplinary project involving Physicists, Material Scientists, Electrical Engineers and Computer Scientists. The project is funded under the prestigious Future Emerging Technologies (FETOPEN-RIA) call of the European Union Horizon 2020 framework. VISORSURF underwent a highly selective review phase, with just 3.9% acceptance rate, and attracted a total budget of 5.7 million euros. The project was conceived and prepared by young researchers, and it involves renowned specialists across multiple disciplines. The consortium comprises six European research institutions and companies: the Foundation of Research and Technology Hellas (Coordinator), the University of Cyprus, the AALTO University of Finland, SignalGenerix Limited, a Cypriot innovation-oriented company, the Fraunhofer Institute for Reliability and Microintegration, and the NaNoNetworking Center in Catalunya. The committed researchers are actively developing the hardware as well as the software for the HyperSurfaces. They expect to have the first prototype within 2020.

More details can be found at the project’s site: