Indian origin scientist Rajesh Menon of University of Utah and a team of his colleagues have developed a lens that is 10 times thinner than human hair. Instead of the standard ‘curved’ lenses that use the property of refraction, this is a ‘flat’ lens that makes use of ‘diffraction’. At the moment a stack of numerous curved lenses are installed in cameras or smartphones to take picture. The bulk of these lenses sometimes make them protrude out of device’s body and makes it difficult to produce truly thin gadgets.
In case of the ‘flat’ lens, light is not bent due to the curvature of the lens but rather due to light interacting with microsturctures present in the lens. A paper published in Scientific Reports, Menon observes, “In nature, we see this when you look at certain butterfly wings. The color of the wings is from diffraction. If you look at a rainbow, it’s from diffraction. What’s new is we showed that we could actually engineer the bending of light through diffraction in such a way that the different colors all come to focus at the same point. That is what people believed could not be done.”
Known as the ‘super-achromatic lens’, it can be manufactured using thin glass or plastic. The lens hundreds and even millions times thinner than some of the lenses in use today. It can revolutionize photography, camera, smartphone, medical equipment, drones, satellites, smart glasses and a host of other industries.