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March 9, 2021
International Tech

Researchers Create Ultra-thin Lenses that Manipulate Light

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By Kiwiana Ngabung – EMTV Online, Port Moresby

Researchers from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab, alongside the California Institute of Technology have partnered to create flat, ultrathin optical lenses that manipulate light.

The lenses dubbed “metasurfaces” are made of silicon nanopillars that are arranged in a honeycomb pattern. The formation of these silicon nanopillars allows for the direction and characteristics of light waves to be controlled.

Typically, it’s hard to do this with standard optics, and is often very expensive.

When seen under a scanning electron microscope, the metasurface appears as elliptical posts, all ranging in sizes. By adjusting the diameter of these pillars and turning them on their axes, researchers were able to control the phase and polarisation of light waves simultaneously.

“Using our metasurfaces, we have complete control of the polarisation and phase of light.

“We can take any incoming light and shape its phase and polarisation profiles arbitrarily and with very high efficiency,” said Amir Arbaba, a senior researcher from the California Institute of Technology.

“Right now the optical systems and lenses that you see they are large and bulky, and we’re trying to make them small and very thin.

“Currently they are made of thick glass and what we are trying to make is very thin devices made out of silicon, which are very thin – less than a hundredth of a human hair thick…” he adds.

More research and advancement on these metasurfaces could have positive impacts on cameras, microscopes, displays, sensors and even computer microchips. It will allow for more compact and smaller systems, instead of the now bulky and expensive devices.

The research team is looking to embed their creation into devices for commercial use, and have already collaborated with scientists in other areas in constructing some devices.

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