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They build a chamber the size of a grain of salt

Image for the article titled They build a high resolution camera the size of a grain of salt

Image: Princeton University

A group of researchers from the Princeton University and the University of Washington has announced the development of a high-resolution full-color camera for the size of a grain of salt, a that “will be the next generation of metasurface technology.”

The approach is not new, in fact the development of tiny cameras that they had the potential to detect problems in the human body and help scientists and medical professionals treat various diseases. The problem was that they had only been able to produce blurry and distorted images with limited fields of view.

As explained by the researchers who have developed the new camera:

While there are sensors with submicron pixels, the fundamental limitations of conventional optics have prohibited further miniaturization. Traditional imaging systems consist of a cascade of refractive elements that correct for aberrations, and these bulky lenses impose a lower limit on the camera’s footprint. Another fundamental barrier is the difficulty of reducing the focal length, since this induces greater chromatic aberrations.

Previous micro-sized cameras limited imaging compared to neural nano-optics that produce images with the quality of a conventional composite camera lens

Previous micro-sized cameras limited imaging compared to neural nano-optics that produce images with the quality of a conventional composite camera lens
Image: Princeton University

In the work published in Nature they say they have overcome such limitations, and that they were able to produce what they describe as “sharp” full-color photos that are “on par” with a conventional composite camera that is 500,000 times larger. The team has called the new camera a “neural nano-optics” system.

Havea camera just half a millimeter wide that can produce photos like a camera with a lens very much larger in volume. A technological advance that, as we said, could be used to find medical problems or as a sensing device for extremely small robots.

To do this, the camera works thanks to something called a metasurface. This material is covered with 1.6 million cylindrical posts, each one of the “size of a human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) particle “. Each cylinder It works like an optical antenna and has a precise design. Without this, the camera would not be able to properly capture all the light reflected by an object.

Image for the article titled They build a high resolution camera the size of a grain of salt

Image: Princeton University

Then once the light is on the metasurface, it reaches an integrated optical surface and is then processed by a signal processing algorithm. The whole configuration is known as Neural Nano-Optics And it’s a significant step up from previous next-generation micro-sized cameras.

According to co-lead author Ethan Tseng, a Princeton graduate researcher:

It has been a challenge to design and configure these small microstructures. For this specific task of capturing wide-field-of-view RGB images, it was previously unclear how to co-engineer the millions of nanostructures together with post-processing algorithms.

The researchers are now working to add more computational capabilities to the camera, and beyond improving image quality, they would like to add the ability to detect objects, which would be tremendously relevant in medicine and robotics.[[Nature via IFLScience]

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