uOttawa researchers miniaturize optics by discovering counterpart to lens

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Key Highlights: 

  • University of Ottawa have proposed a new optical element that could miniaturize optical devices.
  • The new optical element developed by the team is called the spaceplate.
  • This is likely to increase the compression factor and to improve the overall performance.

Centuries of research have been expended to enhance images by improving and combining lenses in order to achieve superior optical performance and new functions. With the development of nanotechnology, this effort has gained tailored surfaces known as metalenses, which promise to make imaging equipment more compact. This promise, however, does not address the space between the lenses, which is critical for picture generation yet takes up by far the most space in imaging systems.

Miniaturized optics through new counterpart to lens


The University of Ottawa researchers addressed this issue by developing and experimentally demonstrating an optical ‘spaceplate,’ an optic that efficiently propagates light at a distance that can be far greater than the plate thickness. Such an optic might allow future imaging systems to be smaller, potentially allowing for ultra-thin monolithic cameras. A spaceplate can also be used to miniaturise critical devices that modify the spatial profile of light, such as solar concentrators, collimators for light sources, integrated optical components, and spectrometers.

When light travels, it naturally “spreads out,” and every known optical device relies on this spread; there is no other alternative to create cameras without it. Every telescope, for example, has a considerable gap between the eyepiece and the objective lens to allow light to spread.

In a small device, a spaceplate simulates the same spreading that light would undergo if it travelled a long distance. A spaceplate appears to take up more space than it actually does. In a way, the spaceplate is a counterpart to the lens, performing functions that the lens cannot in order to reduce the size of full imaging systems.

Say Goodbye to Camera Bumps!

The spaceplate, in combination with metalenses, would enable manufacturers to convert the whole rear surface of, say, an iPhone Max into a flat and thin camera. It would have up to 14 times the resolution and low-light capabilities of those bulky cameras.

Thin and compact cameras might be beneficial in a range of applications, including health care, where camera pills or endoscopes might inspect arteries or the digestive system.

Read more: World’s largest Camera or a look into the cosmos?



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