Scientists have created a new adaptive metalens that is flat and electronically controlled and functions a lot like a human eye but due to some of its added improvements, it can even outperform the ability of a human eye. The instrument is capable of simultaneously controlling three of the major contributors to blurry images – focus, astigmatism, and image shift, according to researchers at the Harvard John A Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS).
The metalens uses nanostructures to focus light. It is able to focus the complete visible light spectrum at a single point. In comparison, the traditional lenses use multiple elements to achieve the same image, due to which they get bulky.
According to the report published in The Harvard Gazette, the researchers managed to combine two industries – semiconductor manufacturing and lens making. “This research provides the possibility of unifying two industries, semiconductor manufacturing and lens-making, whereby the same technology used to make computer chips will be used to make metasurface-based optical components, such as lenses,” said researcher Federico Capasso.
Before this latest development, the report says that the researchers were only able to manufacture metalenses that were about the size of a piece of glitter. In comparison, their latest invention is much bigger at nearly one centimeter-size in diameter. In this case, bigger is better since it will be more feasible to be used with the technology in a huge range of the latest gadgets and eyewear.
As mentioned above, the metalens is made of many nanostructures, it also comprises embedded electrodes, and dielectric elastomers, which are basically artificial muscles that can shrink in or stretch out on the basis of the voltage that is applied on them. The concept behind this was to emulate the eyes of the humans, which use ciliary muscles surrounding the eye lens to change the shape of it.
The metalens and its corresponding elastomers when combined, only come in at about 30 microns thick, but these can be up to several millimeters in terms of diameter.
However, it is likely to take a few years before metalenses can be used in consumer gadgets. The potential of these artificial lenses is . Combined with even smaller computer chips, something like virtual and augmented reality headsets could become small and comfortable enough where the technology becomes appealing to the average consumer.
To recall, last month the researchers in the University of California San Diego developed a prototype of a contact lens which can automatically switch between focusing on near or far off objects by detecting the eye movement of the person who is wearing it.