Adaptive Metamaterials for Smart Standalone Histopathology with Polarized Light

Project coordinator

Christopher Dirdal, SINTEF Digital



Denmark, Finland, Norway

ATTRACT stories: MetaHiLight project (please, accept the cookies to see the video)

Project at a glance

  • MetaHiLight aims to improve cancer diagnostics by using the invisible properties of light combined with artificial intelligence.
  • By including micro- and nanotechnology from SINTEF and the University of Southern Denmark and a novel diagnostic technique from the University of Oulu, the goal is to make a compact and robust system for the detection of cancer in tissue samples.
  • Our hope is that this in the future can be placed in hospitals or doctor’s offices and only require little training before use.

Contact information:

Christopher Dirdal (

Public summary

Utilizing a novel platform for breakthrough optical systems relying on adaptive metamaterial-based optics for visible light, the META-HILIGHT project aims to realise a radically new diagnostic modality for stand-alone sensing and quantitative characterisation of biological tissues. This will be an important step towards a miniaturized and automated digital histopathology diagnostic tool that can be used in real-time for detection of cancer, Alzheimer and other chronic diseases.

To realise this goal, META-HILIGHT combines world leading expertise in Nanophotonics and Metamaterials from the University of Southern Denmark, Micro-Electro-Mechanical-Systems (MEMS) from SINTEF and bio-photonics from the University of Oulu, in radical cross-disciplinary technology-convergent research and development towards overcoming the inhibitive size, weight and cost paradigm of advanced optical sensor and imaging systems for medical diagnostics.

The META-HILIGHT objectives are:

  1. Breakthrough adaptive optical metamaterial waveplate for polarization state control: our proposed adaptive metamaterial platform provides on-chip, ultra-fast (>1kHz) and high range modulations for control of the polarization state of light, enabling novel miniature optical diagnostic tools. State of the art optical modulation typically relies on large components (e.g. motors), is slow (e.g. liquid crystals) or has limited modulation range (e.g. refractive index tuning).
  2. On-chip system integrated metamaterial based polarimeter: We will demonstrate a standalone compact and fast multifunctional polarimeter module integrated with detector arrays for single-shot fast wavelength-resolved polarization analysis. Commercial polarimeter and spectroscopic implementations are typically bulky.
  3. Data processing through machine/deep learning: The alterations of the polarization associated with tissue cancerous malformations will be explored for the use as diagnostic markers by utilizing supervised Machine Learning and Deep Learning. Currently diagnostic techniques for tissue typically require manual microscopy investigation by skilled medical personnel (e.g. biopsy).
  4. Enabling portable stand-alone digital histopathology system for medical diagnostics. The abovementioned objectives will be combined to transfer the state-of-the-art bench-top digital histopathology system developed in ATTRACT Phase 1 to a stand-alone hand-held system developed at TRL 6. This system will be based on the above-mentioned state of the art metamaterial components which can be dramatically miniaturized.

The prototype system of objective 4 system will be demonstrated at TRL 6 by testing the system on realistic tissue phantoms and paraffin embedded tissue blocks, and benchmarking with the latest version of the tabletop system developed in ATTRACT Phase 1. The adaptive and multifunctional metamaterial components from objectives 1 and 2 will be benchmarked against relevant parameters from commercially available components.

Some relevant papers

  • Chao Meng, Paul C. V. Thrane, Fei Ding & Sergey I. Bozhevolnyi. Full-range birefringence control with piezoelectric MEMS-based metasurfaces. Nature Communications 13, 2071 (2022).
  • Chao Meng, Paul C. V. Thrane, Fei Ding, Jo Gjessing, Martin Thomaschewski, Cuo Wu, Christopher Dirdal, and Sergey I. Bozhevolnyi. Dynamic piezoelectric MEMS-based optical metasurfaces. Science Advances, 7(26), eabg5639 (2021)
  • Paul C. V. Thrane, Chao Meng, Fei Ding and Sergey I. Bozhevolnyi. MEMS Tunable Metasurfaces Based on Gap Plasmon or Fabry-Pérot Resonances. Nano Letters 22.17 (2022): 6951-6957
  • Fei Ding, Anders Pors, Yiting Chen, Vladimir A. Zenin and Sergey I. Bozhevolnyi, Beam-Size-Invariant Spectropolarimeters using gap-plasmon metasurfaces. ACS Photonics 4, 943-949 (2017)
  • Deyan Ivanov, Viktor Dremin, Alexander Bykov, Ekaterina Borisova, Tsanislava Genova, Alexey Popov, Razvigor Ossikovski, Tatiana Novikova, Igor Meglinski. Colon cancer detection by using Poincaré sphere and 2D polarimetric mapping of ex vivo colon samples. Journal of Biophotonics 13.8 (2020): e202000082