Graphene, Not Glass, Is The Key To Better Optics

A lens just a billionth of a metre thick could transform phone cameras. Researchers at Swinburne University in Melbourne, Australia, have created ultra-thin lenses that cap an optical fibre, and can produce images with the quality and sharpness of much larger glass lenses.

Compared with current lenses, our graphene lens only needs one film to achieve the same resolution,” says Professor Baohua Jia, a research leader at Swinburne’s Centre for Micro-Photonics. “In the future, mobile phones could be much thinner, without having to sacrifice the quality of their cameras. Our lens also allows infrared light to pass through, which glass lenses don’t.”

Producing graphene can be costly and challenging, so Baohua and her colleagues used a laser to pattern layers of graphene oxide (graphene combined with oxygen). By then removing the oxygen, they produced low-cost, patterned films of graphene, a thousand times thinner than a human hair. “By patterning the graphene oxide film in this way, its optical and electrical properties can be altered, which allowed us to place them in different devices,” she says.

Warm objects give off infrared light, so mobile phones with graphene lenses could be used to scan for hotspots in the human body and help in the early identification of diseases like breast cancer. By attaching the lens to a fibre optic tip, endoscopes — instruments that are currently several millimetres wide—could be made a million times smaller. The team is also investigating graphene’s amazing properties for their potential use as supercapacitors, capable of storing very large amounts of energy, which could replace conventional batteries.

Baohua’s work on graphene lenses was published in Nature Communications.

Source: https://cosmosmagazine.com/

6.3 nanometre lens to revolutionise cameras

Scientists have created the world’s thinnest lens, one two-thousandth the thickness of a human hair, opening the door to flexible computer displays and a revolution in miniature cameras. Lead researcher Dr Yuerui (Larry) Lu from ANU Research School of Engineering  (Australia) said the discovery hinged on the remarkable potential of the molybdenum disulphide crystal.

nanometre lens

This type of material is the perfect candidate for future flexible displays,” said Dr Lu, leader of Nano-Electro-Mechanical System (NEMS) Laboratory in the ANU Research School of Engineering. “We will also be able to use arrays of micro lenses to mimic the compound eyes of insects.”

The 6.3-nanometre lens outshines previous ultra-thin flat lenses, made from 50-nanometre thick gold nano-bar arrays, known as a metamaterial. “Molybdenum disulphide is an amazing crystal,” said Dr Lu. “It survives at high temperatures, is a lubricant, a good semiconductor and can emit photons too. “The capability of manipulating the flow of light in atomic scale opens an exciting avenue towards unprecedented miniaturisation of optical components and the integration of advanced optical functionalities.”

Molybdenum disulphide is in a class of materials known as chalcogenide glasses that have flexible electronic characteristics that have made them popular for high-technology components.

Source: https://cecs.anu.edu.au/

Revolutionary Ultrathin, Flat Lens

Applied physicists at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) have created an ultrathin, flat lens that focuses light without imparting the distortions of conventional lenses. At a mere 60 nanometers thick, the flat lens is essentially two-dimensional, yet its focusing power approaches the ultimate physical limit set by the laws of diffraction.
Operating at telecom wavelengths (i.e., the range commonly used in fiber-optic communications), the new device is completely scalable, from near-infrared to terahertz wavelengths, and simple to manufacture. The results have been published online in the journal Nano Letters.

A new ultrathin, flat lens focuses light without imparting the optical distortions of conventional lenses.

Our flat lens opens up a new type of technology,” says principal investigator Federico Capasso, Robert L. Wallace Professor of Applied Physics and Vinton Hayes Senior Research Fellow in Electrical Engineering at SEAS. “We’re presenting a new way of making lenses. Instead of creating phase delays as light propagates through the thickness of the material, you can create an instantaneous phase shift right at the surface of the lens. It’s extremely exciting.
This breakthrough could lead to smart phones as thin as a credit card. “In the future we can potentially replace all the bulk components in the majority of optical systems with just flat surfaces,” says lead author Francesco Aieta, a visiting graduate student from the Università Politecnica delle Marche in Italy. “It certainly captures the imagination.”

Source: http://www.seas.harvard.edu/news-events/press-releases/flat-lens-offers-perfect-image

The US Army Develops Augmented Reality Lenses

Instead of oversized virtual reality helmets, digital images are projected onto tiny-full-color displays, that are very near the eye. These novel contact lenses allow users to focus simultaneously on objects that are close up and far away. This could improve ability to use tiny portable displays while still interacting with the surrounding environment. It is developed as part of DARPA's Soldier Centric Imaging via Computational Cameras (SCENICC) program. DARPA is the acronym for Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency which aims to "create and prevent strategic surprise". Researchers are located at Washington-based Innovega iOptiks branch (http://innovega-inc.com/press-2012.php).

SCENICC's objecive is to eliminate the ISR capability gap that exists at the individual Soldier level. The program seeks to develop novel computational imaging capabilities and explore joint design of hardware and software that give warfighters access to systems that greatly enhance their awareness, security and survivability. Let's remind that the companies Apple and Microsoft are competing to put on the market  their own nanocomputer lenses very soon  (http://www.nanocomputer.com/?p=1512). 

Source: http://www.darpa.mil/NewsEvents/Releases/2012/01/31.aspx

Augmented Reality

Microsoft and the University of Washington are in the final stages of development for a new augmented reality project that may change the way people see the world. Early last year, the duo announced that they were working on an augmented reality contact lens. The lens could be used to enhance human vision like normal contact lenses, but it could also augment a person’s vision with digital information. Microsoft claims that the project will show just how practical augmented reality really is. 

Augmented reality is commonly used in the marketing and gaming fields. The technology has, thus far, been considered little more than a novelty. Most mobile devices equipped with AR browsers are used to find directions to certain locations or to find deals at local retail stores. Microsoft says that their AR lens will be much more practical, as it will give wearers tools that are not found in mobile devices.
The lens is equipped with facial recognition technology, which allows users to find information on a specific person, such as name and age. The lens will also be able to interface with Windows platforms and other mobile devices, allowing users to access information stored in computers in, literally, the blink of an eye.

 

The project is in its final stages. The lens has been tested on rabbits and is expected to move to human testing within the next few months.

Source: http://www.hitl.washington.edu/artoolkit/

Let's remind that APPLE has last year produced already a first prototype of Nanocomputer iLens : http://www.nanocomputer.com/?page_id=563