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Photonics is currently undergoing an era of miniaturization thanks in part to two-dimensional (2D) optical metasurfaces. Their ability to sculpt and redirect optical momentum can give rise to an optical force, which acts orthogonally to the direction of light propagation. Powered by a single unfocused light beam, these lateral optical forces (LOFs) can be used to drive advanced metavehicles and are controlled via the incident beam’s polarization. However, the full control of a metavehicle on a 2D plane (i.e. forward, backward, left, and right) with a sign-switchable LOF remains a challenge. Here we present a phase-gradient metasurface route for achieving such full control while also increasing efficiency. The proposed metasurface is able to deflect a normally incident plane wave in a traverse direction by modulating the plane wave’s polarization, and results in a sign-switchable recoil LOF. When applied to a metavehicle, this LOF enables a level of motion control that was previously unobtainable.
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