Flat lens promises thinner, cheaper smartphone cameras

Flat lens promises thinner, cheaper smartphone cameras
Modern smartphones rely on camera systems to catch customers’ attention as much as anything else, with manufacturers competing to add as many cameras to their devices. Triple camera systems are now a norm in flagship territory, and we’ve seen quadruple and even penta-systems testing the market. Those camera systems rely on multiple lenses to create a quality image, resulting in camera bumps and periscope workarounds.

A new invention from the University of Utah may change things around, as researchers have developed a flat lens with similar properties to its conventional glass stack counterparts, SlashGear reports. In order to focus light, normal lenses use a curved surface to bend light and direct it to the focal point. To get a quality image, you have to stack more lenses together. What scientists from Utah have done is develop a nanomaterial that can change light’s direction via a specific nanostructure while remaining perfectly flat. 



The current prototype uses infrared light and can focus objects six meters (20 feet) apart from each other. Researchers plan to adapt their invention to use visible light and work at larger distances while ensuring that the lens is easy to be mass-produced. If they succeed, we might see thinner, lighter, and cheaper smartphone cameras, but a retail product is probably still years away.

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