Harvard researchers recently created a flat lens made of paint whitener on a sliver of glass, which could ultimately substitute the large lens commonly find in cameras and telescopes. The result could have widespread applications in several devices.

The team from the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) created the 2mm-len. The device can magnify nanoscale objects and give a sharper focus than the classic lenses, as reported by BBC.

According to Federico Capasso, senior author of a report on the new lens, the technology could be game-changing. The lens is made of a thin layer of transparent quartz coated in millions of tiny pillars, each just tens of nanometers across and hundreds high.

Each pillar has a strong interaction with light, and their combined effect is to slice up the light beam and remold it as the rays pass through the array.
Each pillar has a strong interaction with light, and their combined effect is to slice up the light beam and remold it as the rays pass through the array. Image Credit: Tech Times

Computers calculations were needed to calculate the exact point of replication required in the device

“The quality of our images is actually better than with a state-of-the-art objective lens. I think it is no exaggeration to say that this is potentially revolutionary.” Capasso told the BBC, while adding that an advantage from the classic lenses were the so called aberrations that are inherent to the traditional ones.

When compared, the flat lens had a 30 percent advantage in the focal spot. The traditional glass used were top-end lenses used in research microscopes, which are designed to achieve the maximum magnification possible.

However, even though the flat lenses have some superiority over the large ones, there are other “revolutionary” areas where the new advances could have some harder presence. The flat lenses could be cheaper to make than the traditional ones, Capasso said.

“The conventional fabrication of shaped lenses depends on moulding and essentially goes back to 19th Century technology,” Capasso said. “But our lenses, being planar, can be fabricated in the same foundries that make computer chips. So all of a sudden the factories that make integrated circuits can make our lenses.”

Companies specialized in making microchip could be able to make the flat lenses in a more speedy way and potentially create an even smaller platform that could improve the recently developed lens.

Targeting mass markets

As the mass production is the key to making cheaper flat lenses, Capasso perceives the cell phone cameras as a clear target for the new technology. Most of the smart phones’ components, including the camera’s detector, are already made with chip technology, extending that to include the lens would be natural, Capasso assured.

Other potential uses are in mass-produced cameras for quality control in factories, lightweight options for virtual reality and even contact lenses due to the incredible quality of expansion. Capasso commented that the flat lenses could be made on soft materials as well.

Source: Science