Using a single lens that is about one-thousandth of an inch thick, researchers have created a camera that does not require focusing. Phys.Org reports: “Our flat lenses can drastically reduce the weight, complexity and cost of cameras and other imaging systems, while increasing their functionality,” said research team leader Rajesh Menon from the University of Utah. “Such optics could enable thinner smartphone cameras, improved and smaller cameras for biomedical imaging such as endoscopy, and more compact cameras for automobiles.” In Optica, The Optical Society’s (OSA) journal for high impact research, Menon and colleagues describe their new flat lens and show that it can maintain focus for objects that are about 6 meters apart from each other. Flat lenses use nanostructures patterned on a flat surface rather than bulky glass or plastic to achieve the important optical properties that control the way light travels.
“This new lens could have many interesting applications outside photography such as creating highly efficient illumination for LIDAR that is critical for many autonomous systems, including self-driving cars,” said Menon. The researchers say the design approach they used could be expanded to create optical components with any number of properties such as extreme bandwidth, easier manufacturability or lower cost.