What is it about?

Metamaterials are artificially engineered materials composed of subwavelength structures exhibiting unique properties not found in natural materials. In the last two decades, metamaterials have emerged as a new frontier of science involving materials science, engineering, physics, and chemistry. Metasurfaces are the 2D equivalent of metamaterials. In recent years, the tunable, reconfigurable, and programmable metasurfaces concept has been proposed to achieve a higher degree of freedom over electromagnetic waves. To realize smart control of EM waves, intelligent metasurfaces have been developed with self-adaptivity, equipped with sensing and feedback components to control their reprogrammable functions without human intervention.

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Why is it important?

Intelligent metasurfaces have gained significant importance in recent years due to their ability to dynamically manipulate electromagnetic waves. Their multifunctional characteristics have huge potential in numerous novel devices and exciting applications in the microwave, terahertz, and visible regions. Future generations of wireless communications will include several novel applications, such as intelligent transportation systems, virtual reality, holographic projections, and brain-computer interfaces. Reconfigurable intelligent surfaces have been considered suitable techniques for smart and controllable radio environments. Specifically, with the advancement of artificial intelligence, intelligent metasurfaces are considered suitable candidates to realize a smart future.


While we have already witnessed substantial progress in the field of intelligent metasurfaces, several challenges and applications require further exploration. To further improve the performance and sustainability of intelligent metasurfaces, novel active materials are required. These materials include novel conducting oxides, phase-change materials, and 2D materials. Therefore, extensive research is required to explore materials that provide large refractive index variations, lower response times, and compatibility with existing nanofabrication techniques. In the current 5G and future 6G eras, another challenge is green communications. The network infrastructure is growing rapidly and the number of network nodes will increase exponentially, leading to rising energy costs and increasing carbon footprint. Researchers have proposed two solutions to reduce the energy consumption in 6G: energy harvesting and energy-efficient network-management algorithms. Reconfigurable intelligent surfaces can be employed to realize simultaneous wireless information and power transfer and can also improve the energy efficiency of traditional communication systems. Therefore, the minimization of energy requirement is key to developing AI-based green communication in future research, urging the design and execution of AI algorithms in an energy-efficient manner.

Yasir Saifullah
Shenzhen University

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This page is a summary of: Recent Progress in Reconfigurable and Intelligent Metasurfaces: A Comprehensive Review of Tuning Mechanisms, Hardware Designs, and Applications, Advanced Science, September 2022, Wiley,
DOI: 10.1002/advs.202203747.
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