Programmable metamaterials for software-defined electromagnetic control: Circuits, systems, and architectures

Sergi Abadal, Tie Jun Cui, Tony Low, Julius Georgiou

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Metamaterials and their two-dimensional analogues, metasurfaces, have recently attracted enormous attention because of their powerful control over electromagnetic (EM) waves from microwave to visible range. Moreover, by introducing explicit control of its sub-wavelength unit cells, a metamaterial can become programmable. Programmable metamaterials may not only host multiple EM functionalities that can be chosen or combined through simple software directives, but also be provided with means to adapt to the environment or communicate with other metamaterials, thereby enabling a myriad of applications in sensing, imaging, or communications. The realization of such a software-driven cyber-physical vision comes, however, at the cost of significant hardware requirements. In this paper, recent progress in the field of programmable metasurfaces is reviewed, cutting across layers from the application down to the device and technology levels. The main aim is to present the current status, main benefits, and key challenges of this thriving research area with a tutorial spirit and from a hardware perspective.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number9007666
Pages (from-to)6-19
Number of pages14
JournalIEEE Journal on Emerging and Selected Topics in Circuits and Systems
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Manuscript received January 27, 2020; revised February 16, 2020; accepted February 18, 2020. Date of publication February 24, 2020; date of current version March 12, 2020. This work was supported by the European Commission under Grant H2020-736876-VISORSURF, and in part by the National Key Research and Development Program of China under Grant 2017YFA0700201, Grant 2017YFA0700202, and Grant 2017YFA0700203. This article was recommended by Guest Editor A. Wu. (Corresponding author: Sergi Abadal.) Sergi Abadal is with the NaNoNetworking Center in Catalonia (N3Cat), Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya, 08034 Barcelona, Spain (e-mail:


  • Programmable metamaterials
  • cyber-physical systems
  • embedded digital systems
  • programmable metasurfaces
  • software-defined electromagnetic control

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