Can you imagine one day using a telescope as thin as a sheet of paper or a much smaller and lighter high-performance camera? Or no longer have that camera bump behind your smartphone?
In a paper published in Nature communication, researchers from the University of Ottawa have proposed a new optical element that can make these ideas a reality by dramatically miniaturizing optical devices that potentially affect many of the applications in our lives.
To learn more about this project, we spoke with lead author Dr. Orad Reshef, a senior postdoctoral fellow in the Robert Boyd Group, and research leader Dr. Jeff Lundeen, Canada Research Chair in Quantum Photonics, Associate Professor in the Department of Physics at the University of Ottawa and Head of the Lundeen Lab.
Can you describe the new optical element your team developed, the space plate?
Orad Reshef: Light “propagates naturally” when it travels, and any optical device we know depends on this scattering; we would not know how to design cameras without it. For example, in each telescope there is a large gap between the eyepiece and the objective lens to allow light space to scatter.
A space plate simulates the same scattering that light will experience running far in a small unit. To illuminate, a space plate looks for more space than it takes up. In a way, the room plate is a counterpart to the lens and does things that the lens cannot do to shrink down entire image processing systems.
We introduced the idea of a space plate into our paper, demonstrated it experimentally and showed that it is compatible with broadband light in the visible spectrum that we use to see.
Jeff Lundeen: We considered what would happen if you manipulated light based on the angle rather than the location of a light beam. Lenses work via the position of the beam. Angle is a whole new domain, and no one had shown that it could be used to do anything particularly useful. We identified a useful program that compresses space. And then we showed that we could actually design and experimentally demonstrate plates that do just that.
Orad Reshef: This is exciting because this device will let us shrink down all sorts of very large devices that we thought were impossible to miniaturize in optics. To design it, we need to come up with a new set of rules that are incompatible with what is used in lens design. No one knows what they are, it’s like the Wild West.
How did you come up with this idea?
Jeff Lundeen: Orad Reshef is an expert in using nanotechnology to manipulate a beam based on its position (e.g., metal lenses or more generally meta-surfaces). We casually discussed the limitations of manipulating light with these meta-surfaces, and I said it would be cool to manipulate light based on its angle instead.
Dr. Reshef immediately convinced that he could design and manufacture anything that could do so, and I subsequently concluded that the easiest goal would be to replace the space needed for proliferation (i.e., propagation).
Over the next few months in discussions with Dr. Boyd and Dr. Reshef we slowly realized how amazing and useful such a device would be. Both Dr. Reshef and I came up with viable and completely different designs, which showed that there were many ways to create such a device. We studied three in our article, but more are coming.
How could this technology be used? What is the use of the space plate in our daily lives?
Orad Reshef: A space plate can be used to miniaturize many optical systems, be it a display or a sensor. For example, an advanced space plate can enable paper-thin telescopes or cameras; it can be used to remove the camera bump on the back of your smartphone.
Jeff Lundeen: People lug around big cameras with huge telephoto lenses. If we can sufficiently improve the performance of the room plate, I consider the possibility of building smaller, lighter cameras with much better performance. In particular, the space plate combined with metal lenses allows us to make the entire back of e.g. An iPhone Max for a flat and thin camera. It would have as much as 14 times better resolution and performance in low light than the large and heavy cameras.
Thin and small cameras would be useful in a wide range of applications, including in healthcare, where camera pills or endoscopes could see inside arteries or the digestive system.
What are the next steps?
Orad Reshef: We are working hard to develop the next generation of this technology. We will try to increase the compression factor and improve the overall performance. We already have some designs to increase the compression factor from five to over 100 times and to increase the overall transmission. To continue to do this, we need to come up with a whole new design paradigm.
Any last thoughts?
Orad Reshef: It is surprising that optical elements like lenses have existed for a millennium and their design rules have been understood for over 400 years, and yet we still discover such basic new optical elements for imaging.
The article An optics to replace space and its application to ultra-thin imaging systems is published in Nature communication.
Researchers 3D print complex micro-optics with improved imaging performance
An optics to replace space and its use against ultra-thin image processing systems, Nature communication (2021). DOI: 10.1038 / s41467-021-23358-8
Provided by the University of Ottawa
Citation: Say goodbye to your camera bump: Miniaturized optics through new counterpart to lens (2021, June 10) Retrieved June 10, 2021 from https://phys.org/news/2021-06-goodbye-camera-miniaturized-optics-counterpart . html
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