A team of researchers reports on a dynamically tuneable lens capable of achieving almost any complex optical function.
Camera performance on mobile devices has proven to be one of the features that most end-users aim for. The importance of optical image quality improvement, and the trend to have thinner and thinner smartphones have pushed manufactures to increase the number of cameras in order to provide phones with better zoom, low-light exposure high quality photography, portraits, to name a few. But adding additional lenses to a miniaturized optical configuration and driving light focusing with an electronic device is not as easy as it seems, particularly at small scales or in such confined spaces.
The integration of an adjustable-dynamic zoom lens in a mm-thick cell phone, in a miniaturized microscope, or at the remote end of a medical endoscope requires complex lenses that can handle the full optical spectrum and be reshaped electrically within milliseconds. Until now, a class of soft materials known as liquid crystal spatial light modulators have been the tool of choice for high-resolution light shaping, but their implementation has proven to have limits in terms of performance, bulkiness and cost.
In a study recently published in Nature Photonics, fruit of a close collaboration between Pascal Berto, Chang Liu and Gilles Tessier from the Institut de la Vision, and ICFO scientists Laurent Philippet, Johann Osmond, Adeel Afridi, Marc Montagut, and Bernat Molero, led by ICREA Prof. at ICFO Romain Quidant, the researchers demonstrate an adjustable technique to manipulate light without any mechanical movement. In this approach, coined Smartlens, a current is passed through a well-optimized micrometer-scale resistor, and the heating locally changes the optical properties of the transparent polymer plate holding the resistor. In much the same way as a mirage bends light passing through hot air to create illusions of distant lakes, this microscale hot region is able to deviate light. Within milliseconds, a simple slab of polymer can be turned into a lens and back: small, micrometer-scale smartlenses heat up and cool down quickly and with minimal power consumption. They can even be fabricated in arrays, and the authors show that several objects located at very different distances can be brought into focus within the same image by activating the Smartlenses located in front of each of them, even if the scene is in colours.
By modelling the diffusion of heat and the propagation of light and using algorithms inspired by the laws of natural selection the authors show they can go way beyond simple lenses: a properly engineered resistor can shape light with a very high level of control and achieve a wide variety of optical functions. For instance, if the right resistor is imprinted on it, a piece of polymer could be activated or deactivated at will to generate a given “freeform” and correct specific defects in our eyesight, or the aberrations of an optical instrument.
Learn more: Shaping light with a Smartlens
The Latest on: SmartLens
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The Latest on: SmartLens
- Dynamically Tunable 'Smartlens' Can Shape Light for Various Functionson July 30, 2019 at 5:19 am
The lens, called Smartlens, is able to manipulate light without any mechanical movement. The Smarlens design is based on a method of deterministic phase-front shaping using a planar thermo-optical ...
- Shaping light with a Smartlenson July 26, 2019 at 8:31 am
In this approach, coined Smartlens, a current is passed through a well-optimized micrometer-scale resistor, and the heating locally changes the optical properties of the transparent polymer plate ...
- Shaping light with a smartlenson July 26, 2019 at 8:05 am
(Nanowerk News) Camera performance on mobile devices has proven to be one of the features that most end-users aim for. The importance of optical image quality improvement, and the trend to have ...
- Schematic Illustration Smartlens (image)on July 26, 2019 at 6:44 am
This is a schematic illustration on the location with the Smartlens is placed within the optical instrument (in this case a microscope). Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the ...
- Tunable and free-form planar opticson July 22, 2019 at 8:30 am
When combined with a genetic algorithm optimization, this SmartLens can produce free-form optical wavefront modifications. Individually, or in arrays, it can generate complex functions based on either ...
- Announcing the Genesis Investment in SmartLenson May 15, 2019 at 9:50 am
On behalf of Genesis, I’m excited to announce our investment in SmartLens. SmartLens leverages image recognition technology to identify products in the physical world and empower users to purchase ...
- The Teenage Tech Entrepreneur Making Your Smartphone Smarteron March 12, 2019 at 6:05 am
Yet the founder and CEO of SmartLens, a Seattle-based company specializing in visual search products for consumers, is just 18 and a freshman at the University of Texas at Austin. SmartLens is his ...
- SmartLens - Clip on Phone Camera Lens Set of 3on November 18, 2018 at 7:24 pm
This nifty kit is compatible with all smart phones and tables and attaches itself to your device via a screw mechanism. It includes 3 separate lens, the fisheye lens offers a 180 degree view, which ...
- ‘SmartLens’ app created by a high schooler is a step towards all-purpose visual searchon May 1, 2018 at 4:06 pm
His app, SmartLens, attempts to solve the problem of seeing something and wanting to identify and learn more about it — with mixed success, to be sure, but it’s something I don’t mind having in my ...
- Dynamically Tunable 'Smartlens' Can Shape Light for Various Functionson March 28, 2018 at 5:00 pm
University of Utah researchers have developed a new kind of flat optical lens that is much thinner and lighter than conventional camera lenses. While conventional lenses for smartphone cameras are a..
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