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For more than 500 years, humans have mastered the art of refracting light by shaping glass into lenses, then bending or combining those lenses to amplify and clarify images either close-up and far-off.

But in the last decade or so, a group led by scientist Federico Capasso at Harvard University has begun to transform the field of optics by engineering flat optics metasurfaces, employing an array of millions of tiny microscopically thin and transparent quartz pillars to diffract and mold the flow of in much the same way as a , but without the aberrations that naturally limit the glass.

The technology was selected as among the Top 10 Emerging Technologies by the World Economic Forum (WEF) in 2019, which remarked that these increasingly smaller, clearer lenses would soon begin to be seen in camera phones, sensors, optical-fiber lines and medical-imaging devices, such as endoscopes.

"Making the lenses used by mobile phones, computers and other smaller has been beyond the capabilities of traditional glass cutting and glass curving techniques," according to the WEF. "...These tiny, thin, flat lenses could replace existing bulky glass lenses and allow further miniaturization in sensors and medical imaging devices."

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Category: Science