Lenses Now You Know

The Lenses of the Future May Not Need Movable Glass and May Instead Focus Using Heat

Image courtesy MIT
Image courtesy MIT
The smart engineers at MIT may be redefining how camera lenses could work in the future. Instead of complicated glass elements and precise micro motors to move them for focusing and zooming, the lenses of the future may incorporate a transparent phase-shifting material (an “ultra-thin tunable meta-lens”) that can rearrange its atomic structure in response to heat.

This meta-lens is composed of germanium/antimony/tellurium material and has tiny, precisely patterned structures etched into its surface, which can be designed to refract or reflect light in certain ways. As the material is heated, its optical properties shift, e.g., focusing light on a near point at room temperature, and then moving its focus point farther away as heat is applied.

The team has tested this using infra-red light and believes this technology may find practical use in miniature heat scopes, ultra-compact thermal cameras and low-profile night vision goggles. Looking much further ahead, it hopes to bring this technology to ultra-compact zoom lenses for smartphones with no moving parts.

Read more in Nature Communications.

via MIT