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Research interests

Conventional optical devices (e.g., lenses) are very bulky, which cannot keep pace with the continued device miniaturization and system integration. Optical metasurfaces can control light propagation in a desirable manner. Metasurface devices are ultrathin, flat, and ideal for miniaturization and integration. Dr Chen is leading the Experimental Nanophotonics Group, which is dedicated to the fundamental physics of flat optics and its application in ultrathin optical devices for imaging and display, polarization camera, information processing, biomedical sensing and particle trapping.

Supported by EPSRC, Leverhulme, DSTL, Royal Society, Royal Society of Edinburgh and Heriot-Watt–Renishaw Strategic Alliance, his research highlights include first dual-polarity metalens for imaging, first image-switchable metasurface holograms for anti-counterfeiting, first multichannel device for manipulation of twisted light beams, and first demonstration of arbitrary polarization profile for image concealment. His PhD students (Dandan Wen and Fuyong Yue) both won PhD thesis Prize at EPS in 2017. To explore the commercial applications of novel metasurface devices, he has built strong connections with industry, including Renishaw, STMicroelectronics, Holoxica and Helia Photonics.

Link to his group website: https://nanophotonicshwu.wixsite.com/xchen


Dr Xianzhong Chen is an associate professor of physics at Institute of Photonics and Quantum Sciences. He received his PhD degree from Chinese Academy of Sciences in 2004. Prior to joining Heriot-Watt, he was a research fellow in Prof. Shuang Zhang’s group at University of Birmingham.  He has published 80 research papers, which have led to 6000 Google Scholar citations. His publications include Nature Communications, Nano Letters, Advanced Materials, Light: Science and Applications, and Laser Photonics Reviews. His previous work on macroscopic invisibility cloaking was selected as one of the "top 10 breakthroughs for 2010" by Physics World, "top 100 stories in 2011" by Discover Magazine, and received wide media coverage including BBC News, Channel 4, ITV, and USA Today.

Roles & Responsibilities

He is the Associate Editor of Frontiers in Nanotechnology and the research grant reviewer for EPSRC, Royal Academy of Engineering, UK Research and Innovation and Dutch Research Council (Netherlands). In addition, he also serves as a reviewer for high-profile journals, including Nature Nanotechnology and Nature Communications. He has organized and chaired many special sessions on metasurfaces on international conferences such as PlasmoMat-2022 and META’21. 

Press Profile


  • QC Physics
  • metamaterials
  • metasurfaces
  • ultrathin optical devices
  • metalens
  • biomedical imaging
  • holograms
  • nanofabrication
  • edge imaging
  • polarisation manipulation
  • structured beams


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