Ultrathin lens may boost resolution in miniature digital cameras

FEBRUARY 13--Engineers at the University of California San Diego (UCSD; San Diego, CA, USA; www.ucsd.edu) have built a powerful yet ultrathin digital camera by folding up the telephoto lens.

FEBRUARY 13--Engineers at the University of California San Diego (UCSD; San Diego, CA, USA; www.ucsd.edu) have built a powerful yet ultrathin digital camera by folding up the telephoto lens. This technology may yield lightweight, ultrathin, high-resolution miniature cameras for unmanned surveillance aircraft, cell phones, and infrared night-vision applications.

Instead of bending and focusing light as it passes through a series of separate mirrors and lenses, the new folded system bends and focuses light while it is reflected back and forth inside a single 5-mm-thick optical crystal. The light is focused as if it were moving through a traditional lens system that is at least seven times thicker.

"Our imager is about seven times more powerful than a conventional lens of the same depth," said Eric Tremblay, the first author on a recent Applied Optics paper and an electrical and computer engineering Ph.D. candidate at UCSD's Jacobs School of Engineering. Tremblay is working with Joseph Ford, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at the Jacobs School who leads the camera project within UCSD's Photonic Systems Integration Lab. Ford is also affiliated with the UCSD division of the California Institute of Telecommunications and Information Technology.

"When all is said and done, our camera will look a lot like a lens cap that can be focused and used as a regular camera," said Ford.

(from Laser Focus World; www.laserfocusworld.com)

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