Micro-cameras are used in virtually all industries. In the medical field, these tiny cameras have helped facilitate less invasive medical imaging practices and improved robotic surgical tools. Structures of molecules and neural pathways have been uncovered using this technology, although achieving high resolution at a tiny scale is difficult. With the best attempts resulting in blurry and distorted images, leading to some inaccuracy when interpreting the results.
Research teams from Princeton University and the University of Washington have managed to overcome this problem with their latest invention. Their paper, published in Nature Communications, discusses an ultracompact camera the size of a grain of salt! It is the device’s lens that separates it from comparable previous micro-cameras, with it being 500,000 times larger in volume, giving clear full color images.
Traditionally, glass or plastic lenses are utilized to curve light rays inside the camera. This micro-camera uses a new technology called metasurface, which is an area covered with 1.6 million tiny cylinders. Each of these acts as an antenna, designed with its own unique shape in order to accurately capture light from the scene in front of it. Additionally, the algorithms used to turn these light signals into the image on the screen are also groundbreaking. Computing the complex information from six refractive lenses, into beautiful, colorful images.
A great thing about this invention is the materials and method used to produce the metasurface. As computer chips are made in a similar way and with similar glass-like material, metasurfaces have much lower manufacturing costs than conventional cameras. Affordable mass production of this incredible technology is likely to hugely advance the medical field. The speed of groundbreaking research can be increased, plus more accessibility across the world to carry out life saving procedures.
Source study: Nature Communications – Neural nano-optics for high-quality thin lens imaging