A whole new type of lens could mean slimmer phones, longer-flying drones -- even benefits for soldiers.
Credit: National Science Foundation/Karson Productions
A leaner lens.
I'm Bob Karson with the Discovery Files, from the National Science Foundation.
The latest smattering of new smartphones features better-than-ever images but until there's a lens technology breakthrough, those chunky orbs will continue to jut out as (Sound effect: psycho-type music) the dreaded 'camera bump.'
Engineers at the University of Utah just broke through. (Sound effect: small shatter) They've created a new kind of lens 20 times thinner than a human hair, a hundred times lighter and a thousand times thinner than the lens you just did a duck face into. (Sound effect: duck call) It does everything regular lenses do plus thermal imaging for seeing in the dark.
A regular curvy lens bends light to focus it, before it hits the sensor to get digitized. The new thin lens has microstructures built in, each bending the light in the right direction. Result: a dramatically thinner profile, in a design that makes 'em from lightweight plastic at reduced cost.
Don't really need thermal imaging on my smartphone might be fun, sure, but rescue crews and law enforcement equipment will be totally better with the new lens technology. (Sound effect: light battle sounds) Streamlined military night vision equipment, and (Sound effect: drone sound) lighter, longer-flying drones for night missions, search and rescue, and mapping forest fires.
Plus for all you design freaks -- new smartphones could finally dump the 'bump.'
"The discovery files" covers projects funded by the government's National Science Foundation. Federally sponsored research -- brought to you, by you! Learn more at nsf.gov or on our podcast.
Images and other media in the National Science Foundation Multimedia Gallery are available for use in print and electronic material by NSF employees, members of the media, university staff, teachers and the general public. All media in the gallery are intended for personal, educational and nonprofit/non-commercial use only.
Images credited to the National Science Foundation, a federal agency, are in the public domain. The images were created by employees of the United States Government as part of their official duties or prepared by contractors as "works for hire" for NSF. You may freely use NSF-credited images and, at your discretion, credit NSF with a "Courtesy: National Science Foundation" notation.
Additional information about general usage can be found in Conditions.