Utah University scientists have developed a new thin, flat, lightweight optical lens that’s 20 times thinner than a human hair.
According to its scientists, the lens’ flat quality could ultimately help flatten those unsightly ‘camera bumps’ we see today on feature-rich smartphones.
It also works with night imaging, making it a boon for drones and night vision cameras utilized by soldiers.
The study paper detailing the above research was co-authored by electrical and computer engineering graduate students Monjurul Meem, Sourangsu Banerji and Apratim Majumder.
Associate professors Rajesh Menon, Berardi Sensale Rodriguez, and Fernando Guevara Vasquez also lent in their expertise.
While conventional lenses for smartphone cameras are a couple of millimeters thick, Utah’s new lens is only a few microns thick, notes Menon:
“Our lens is a hundred times lighter and a thousand times thinner, but the performance can be as good as conventional lenses.”
This can be attributed to the new lens’ many microstructures, each bending light in the correct direction at the sensor.
The scientists have also developed a new fabrication process with a novel type of polymer and algorithms that calculate the geometry of these microstructures.
“You can think of these microstructures as very small pixels of a lens,” explains Menon. “They’re not a lens by themselves but all working together to act as a lens.”
The result is a lens that is flat instead of curved and more than 20 times thinner than a human hair.
It also comes with the added capability of being used in thermal imaging to see objects in the dark.
This makes it useful for lighter military drones that need to fly longer for night missions, map forest fires, or look for victims of natural disasters.
It could also reduce a field soldier’s baggage load as these lighter night vision cameras are much lighter than their current counterparts.
Image and content: Dan Hixson/University of Utah via Eurekalert