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Metalens to shrink size of devices using cameras
January 28, 2018, 4:36 pm

Scientists at Harvard University recently unveiled a new metalens that has the potential to shrink the size of any device that uses a camera while at the same time improving performance.

While traditional lenses are made from glass, metalenses use a flat surface peppered with nanostructures to focus light. One problem with metalenses has been their inability to focus the full spectrum of light. That is no longer the case, said the Harvard researchers who helped develop the new lens. Metalens can focus the entire visible spectrum of light, including white light, at a focal point, with high resolution.

Another advantage that metalens has over conventional lens systems, is that multiple elements are not needed to correct for color aberrations — the refraction of different wavelengths of light through slightly different angles, resulting in a failure to focus. Those multiple elements make lenses thick, and thick lenses mean thicker devices. For example, if this lens were used in a cellphone, the cellphone could be much thinner since the lens is responsible for the ugly bump on the back of many cellphones.

By correcting chromatic aberration, where different color wavelengths move at metalens also addresses the annoying problem of the lack of visual fidelity and realism in artifacts that confront virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) hardware developers.

Another benefit of using an achromatic metalens in a camera is that it makes the production of the camera subsystem easier to produce. Now, the subsystem is made up of a sensor, which is a piece of fabricated silicon, and a stack of lenses, which are produced by lens molding, a process dating back to the 19th century.

The use of cameras with metalenses is still some time away and a cellphone using metalens is equally far off, but it is going to be exciting times ahead for camera buffs.

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