U of U researchers eye new flat, ultralight lens

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SALT LAKE CITY – If you wear bulky eyeglasses, would you trade them in for paper-thin ones? That’s the vision of University of Utah engineers who have developed a new, flat ultralight lens.

For the past five years, Rajesh Menon and his team of researchers have focused on dispelling a misconception – that flat, ultrathin optical lenses for cameras were impossible.

“There’s this huge misconception that this could not be done, that you could not correct for all the colors of light for flat lenses,” said Rajesh Menon, University of Utah Associate Professor of Electrical & Computer Engineering.

His team discovered a way to design a flat lens about 100 times smaller than the width of the human hair.

“We engineered how it bends, so it comes to a tight, color-corrected focus on a very flat lens,” Menon said.

The flat, lightweight lens can be built for all kinds of applications.

“You can now put it on cameras that need to go in space and things like that, so it becomes a lot cheaper,” Menon said.

You could also place them on drones and smart phones.

“You can have cameras that are embedded into architecture, in walls and doors, because now you don`t need that extra bulk," Menon said.

Students learning about the new lens are seeing a lot of potential.

“I think this technology could be really useful in a lot of applied fields,” said Karlee Stokes.

Her fellow classmate, Anastasia Borodai, added: “We both want to go in the medical field. I think it's super great when doctors are having to look at images, for example, if there's a thinner glass they don't have to freak out about any distortion.”

Researchers are pleased with what they see so far and look forward to more eye-opening developments.

“We are literally at the tip of the iceberg, and there will be people far smarter than me who will come and utilize this in a much more creative manner,” Menon said.

It will take 3 to 5 years before the project becomes a reality. Click here to read more about the study.