Recent research has shown that big, stacked lenses used in cameras, smartphones, microscopes, telescopes and other gadgets could be replaced by a new ultra-thin lens.
In spite of all the benefits that lens technology has provided until now, no single flat ultra-thin metalens on the market can replace the stacked ones.
The curved lenses used today, such as the ones used in cameras and telescopes, are stacked to produce a clear image and decrease image distortions. That is why strong microscope lenses are so big whereas telephoto lenses are so long.
Fortunately, the first planar lens was manufactured by a team of researchers from the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS). Besides being capable of resolving nanoscale features, the new ultra-thin lens works very well within the light’s visible spectrum.
In addition to this, it has a unique feature known as ‘metasurface’ made from a very thin assembly of microscopic waveguides capable of bending the light that passes through the lens. This process is related to the one used by the curved lens.
To create the heart of the metalens, scientists used titanium dioxide. This heart is the nanoscale collection of smooth and high-aspect-ratio nanostructures. Furthermore, it can provide better focus than today’s best commercial lenses.
According to Federico Capasso, senior author of the project and Professor of Applied Physics, the new ultra-thin lens technology is capable of becoming a revolutionary product that will renew the market. Plus, the fact that it works in the light’s visible spectrum proved that it can easily replace the current lenses in all devices, including smartphones, microscopes, cameras, and telescopes.
In addition to this, Capasso added that these planar lenses will be much cheaper than current ones and will be manufactured on a much larger scale in the future. However, researchers are still trying to find the best way to make the lens fit for commercial opportunities.
Thanks to the fact that these lenses are flat, they can be fabricated in the same foundries that currently make computer chips. In means that, these factories might soon start manufacturing this ultra-thin lens available for commercial use.
All in all, it seems like the ultra-thin lens has written a new page in the future development of technology.
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