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Optical non-linear phenomena are typically observed in natural materials interacting with light at high intensities, and they benefit a diverse range of applications from communication to sensing. However, controlling harmonic conversion with high efficiency and flexibility remains a major issue in modern optical and radio-frequency systems. Here, we introduce a dynamic time-domain digital-coding metasurface that enables efficient manipulation of spectral harmonic distribution. By dynamically modulating the local phase of the surface reflectivity, we achieve accurate control of different harmonics in a highly programmable and dynamic fashion, enabling unusual responses, such as velocity illusion. As a relevant application, we propose and realize a novel architecture for wireless communication systems based on the time-domain digital-coding metasurface, which largely simplifies the architecture of modern communication systems, at the same time yielding excellent performance for real-time signal transmission. The presented work, from new concept to new system, opens new pathways in the application of metamaterials to practical technology.


This work was originally published in the National Science Review, available at

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits non-commercial reuse, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.



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