The DYNAMO project, coordinated by the Optics Research Group (GROC) of the Universitat Jaume I of Castellón, has been approved by the European Commission within the framework of the European Union’s top research and innovation programme, Horizon Europe. Thus, DYNAMO has become the only European EIC Pathfinder project coordinated by an entity of the Valencian Community to receive funding in this first call of the financial period 2021-2027 of Horizon Europe.

DYNAMO is an ambitious project that starts from the study of the fundamentals of acoustic wave scattering and ends up developing ultrafast imaging applications in optics. Its success combines the synergy of the disciplines of physical acoustics, photonics and imaging. The results of this project coordinated by the UJI will accelerate imaging technologies and position European science and industry at the forefront of inventions and advances in this field.

The project also has thirteen other international partners and associated entities such as the State Agency of the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), the Imperial College of Science Technology and Medicine in the United Kingdom, the Stanislaw Staszic University of Mining and Metallurgy in Krakow, the Association of European Development Agencies in France, the Foundation for the Promotion of the Research and Development of the European Union and the European Commission, the Foundation for the Promotion of Health and Biomedical Research in the Valencian Community, the Valencian Institute for Business Competitiveness, the Finnovaregio entity, the Institute of Electronics, Microelectronics and Nanotechnology of France, the Universitat Jaume I-Business Foundation, the Association Pierre et Marie Curie, Holoeye Photonics AG and the Sorbonne University.

The EIC Pathfinder DYNAMO project will develop new spatial light modulators based on opto-acoustic coupling. Such light modulators are currently limited by the update frequency of the device, but the new system developed by DYNAMO will remove this limitation, thus creating a fundamental technological breakthrough in the area of optics. The idea is based on sending all possible device patterns simultaneously, encoded in a pulse of a few nanoseconds, thus changing the modulation of the light beam from sequential to parallel.

In this way, DYNAMO will modulate optical beams in two spatial dimensions plus the temporal dimension. This translates into an innovation equivalent to the advancement of data processing from the first electronic computers with a clock frequency of 100kHz in 1945 to 1GHz processing in 2000. DYNAMO would therefore be working on the equivalent of this breakthrough that took half a century, transferred to the field of imaging and accelerated in 50 years thanks to the implementation of this project.

“The aim of DYNAMO is to achieve this extraordinary control of the image by generating a kind of ‘micro-earthquakes’ that will deform the light when it is reflected on surfaces”, explains Daniel Torrent, main researcher of the project and member of GROC. Torrent illustrates this process with the following example: “If you place a ball on the surface of a rippling swimming pool, you can see how it periodically rises and falls, taking practically one second for a complete cycle. The waves that will be studied in DYNAMO make the same movement, but at a rate of one billion times per second, which is the speed at which we intend to manipulate the images formed from our ‘micro-earthquakes'”.

Ultra-fast image manipulation has a myriad of applications, as it allows not only to form images but also to capture them by means of optical processing techniques. “There are a huge number of processes in nature that are too fast to be recorded with conventional cameras, but with the help of the devices that DYNAMO will develop, a giant leap in that direction will be made”, Torrent adds. Given that imaging technologies form the basis of a wide range of products and devices, this breakthrough will have a major global impact, both scientifically and commercially.