New Metalens – New Era of Camera

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For a camera, the lens is the most important thing to capture the image. The better camera lens, the finer image quality. Who doesn’t love an ultra HD picture? This new metalens technology opens a whole new future for the photo.

Scientists at Harvard University revealed a metalens that might be shrinking the size of devices with a camera while improving the performance at the same time. If interested, take a look at the future of phones & tablets in 2018.

How normal camera lens works

To understand the possibility, at first, we have to understand how normal (traditional) lens work. Normal lenses are made of glass. When taking pictures, the lens has to focus the light into one point. For focusing all the spectrum of light, these lenses had to use additional material layers. These additional layers make the lens thicker, so the holding device becomes thicker and heavier.

Features of metalens

There are numerous advantages of using a metalens over the traditional lens. The important one is, these metalenses don’t need the additional material layer to centralize all the light spectrum. This feature makes the lens thinner.

Previously, all the metalenses weren’t able to concentrate all the light spectrum. This was a major issue for using them in real life. Thanks to the scientists at Harvard University, the new metalens is capable of doing it without any additional layer.

This is a big step forward. Where the traditional lens is made of glass, these advanced metalens is made of a flat surface peppered with nanostructures to focus light. Since discovered, it couldn’t focus all the visible light spectrum. Now, the obstacle is no more.

Newly invented metalens

According to Federico Capasso, a professor of applied physics at Harvard University and author of the research paper, the lens is flat and thinner than a conventional lens. Such lens, if used in a cellphone, would make the phone a lot thinner.

Wei Ting Chen, a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard and member of the metalens team, explained how this metalens is developed. By combining 2 nanofins into one element, the speed of light is tuned by the nanostructured materials, ensuring all visible wavelengths focused in the same spot.

The lens is the reason for the bump of cellphone’s back. Most of the cellphone companies hate the situation. The new metalens, being much thinner, it’s very exciting for everyone. Moreover, a general cellphone lens contains 6-7 regular lenses. According to Federico Capasso, if it’s possible to cut down the number down to 3, it’ll be pretty significant.

Impact on VR & AR

You may not know, but VR & AR is largely dependent on the lens. This new lens, correcting chromatic aberration, has the potential to improve VR devices a lot better.

Sam Rosen, a vice president at ABI Research, explained how this improves the situation. Chromatic aberration resulting from the propagation speed of various light frequencies is a major challenge to provide the perfect visual fidelity and realism in VR & AR.

For fixing the issue, we had to use computer-intensive methods to adjust focal points or color-by-color basis. The process is resource hungry and required a powerful hardware. Now, with the help of this metalens, the process will no longer eat computer resources. Thus, new VR & AR devices will provide better quality while keeping the system a lot simpler and faster.

Business scope

The metalenses being easier to manufacture and with other features is the perfect suite for next-generation cameras. Companies are pretty excited about that.

The traditional camera subsystem uses sensor – a piece of fabricated silicon and a stack of lenses. With this metalens, the same camera module can be created. According to Capasso, that’s a breakthrough for camera industry.

However, we have to wait long before this lens is on the field. The project is still in research stages. With this big step forward, I’m expecting to use them as soon as possible.

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