New Lens Tech Can Shrink Cameras, VR and AR Gear

Scientists at Harvard University on Monday unveiled a 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’s not the case any more, however, as a team at Harvard’s Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Science have developed a metalens that can focus the entire visible spectrum of light — including white light — at a focal point, with high resolution.

An advantage a metalens has over conventional lens systems is that multiple elements aren’t needed to correct for aberrations. Those multiple elements make lenses thick, and thick lenses mean thicker devices.

“Our lens is a flat lens, so it’s thinner than a conventional lens,” explained Federico Capasso, a professor of applied physics at Harvard and author of the research paper on the new metalens published Monday inĀ Nature Nanotechnology.

“If this lens were used in a cellphone, the cellphone could be much thinner,” he told TechNewsWorld.

Two components of a cellphone continue to challenge designers driven to make the devices thinner: the battery and the camera.

“The lens is responsible for the bump on the back of the cell phone that the cell phone companies hate,” Capasso said. “Right now, a cellphone has six or seven regular lenses. Even if we can cut it down to three, it’ll be extremely significant.


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