Researchers demonstrate process for producing ultra-thin camera lenses

Researchers from Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden have demonstrated technology that could make it possible to produce ultra-thin camera lenses made from artificial materials known as ‘metasurfaces.’

ultra-thin camera lenses
The process could lead to camera lenses that are thousands of times thinner and less resource intensive to produce. Credit: Chalmers University of Technology / Daniel Andren

These materials  – which consist of a multitude of interacting nanoparticles that together can control light – have long been though to hold great promise for next generation camera lenses.

However, until now, the time consuming nature of the process required to produce these materials and the advanced equipment required has held back the development of the technology.

The Chalmers researchers’ new method, which is based on a plastic that is already used to create other microstructures, enables the production rate to be increased significantly over current techniques.

The new technology uses harmless chemicals, as well as machines that are already common in nano-manufacturing laboratories today, meaning that more researchers could now begin to study metasurfaces.

“We put a thin layer of this plastic on a glass plate and, using a well-established technique called electron-beam lithography, we can draw detailed patterns in the plastic film, which after development will form the metasurface,” said Daniel Andrén, a PhD student at the Department of Physics at Chalmers and first author of a paper published in the journal ACS Photonics. “The resulting device can focus light just like a normal camera lens, but it is thousands of times thinner – and can be flexible too.”