Rajesh Menon, an Indian-origin engineer from the University of Utah, has come up with a flat lens that does not need to focus on subjects and only takes up limited space. First published in the journal Optica, Menon, who is the lead engineer behind the project, said that their flat lenses have an ability to drastically reduce the weight, complexity and cost of cameras and other imaging systems while improving their functionality. He added that these optics can help thinner smartphone cameras and smaller cameras for biomedical imaging like endoscopy, and more compact cameras for automobiles.
Rajesh Menon also revealed that these new flat lenses can maintain focus on a particular object that stands about 6 meters apart from each other. The new lens design comes with nano-structures that have been patterned on a surface rather than a glass or plastic that makes the unit quite bulky. Menon further added these lenses can have several other applications apart from plain photography like creating a highly efficient illumination for LIDAR which is essential in a number of autonomous systems, including self-driving vehicles.
He also said that the lenses can help eliminate the need for focusing while allowing a camera to focus on multiple objects at the same time. Traditional cameras also make use of a number of lenses to keep different colours of light in focus at the same time. Menon also explained that their new design is quite general, and can also be used to create a single flat lens that could focus all colours of light while simplifying cameras a lot more.
Rajesh Menon and his team are now working to make sure that their flat-lenses can be manufactured on a larger scale while extending them to higher apertures. This will help the lenses to work in the full visible light spectrum.