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Published June 15, 2022 | Supplemental Material
Journal Article Open

Optical Characterization of Silicon Nitride Metagrating-Based Lightsails for Self-Stabilization


We report ultrathin photonic metagratings where anisotropic scattering is designed to achieve self-stabilizing dynamics in a collimated beam of laser light. Stability necessitates a delicate balance between all scattered orders of light, which we demonstrate in a monolithic material platform suited for efficient propulsion in space. Our suspended structures are fabricated in silicon nitride membranes, which is a promising lightsail material candidate due to its wafer-level scalability and favorable mechanical and optical properties. Lightsail prototype designs are optically characterized by angle-resolved photocurrent measurements of the intensities and angles of the asymmetric ±1 diffraction orders. We infer the optically induced forces and torques from refracted and reflected light measurements and show that these are restoring along one axis by providing them as input functions to numerical simulations of lightsail dynamics. Our experimental results represent a first step toward full dynamical verification of realistic lightsail designs and pave the way for realization of stable beam-riding lightsails composed of ultrathin dielectric membranes.

Additional Information

© 2022 American Chemical Society. Received 31 December 2021. Published online 2 June 2022. We would like to thank Dr. Lior Michaeli and Dr. Claudio Hail for their helpful discussions. We gratefully acknowledge the critical support and infrastructure provided for this work by the Kavli Nanoscience Institute at Caltech. This work was supported by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (grant FA2386-18-1-4095) and the Breakthrough Initiatives, a division of the Breakthrough Prize Foundation. Author Contributions. R.G. performed the numerical simulations, fabricated the device, performed the measurements, and analyzed the data. M.D.K conceived and built the setup and assisted with measurements. Y.K. developed the fabrication process and provided helpful comments on the device fabrication. O.I. provided insightful inputs to the numerical simulations and data analysis. R.G. and H.A.A. wrote the manuscript. All authors reviewed the paper. H.A.A. supervised the project. The authors declare no competing financial interest.

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August 22, 2023
October 24, 2023