Using an ultrathin wafer of silicon and gold to focus lightwaves, researchers at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences have created a revolutionary new kind of camera lens that completely eliminates the image distortion created by traditional glass lenses. It could not only pave the way for lighter cameras that are still as capable as today's swappable lens models, but even cameraphones that snap images as impressive as a DSLR.
The lens measures in at a mere 60 nanometers thick, so for all intents and purposes it's almost just a 2D object. (But not quite.) It's made by plating a thin wafer of silicon with a layer of gold that's then etched away to create a series of V-shaped structures across its surface. When light hits these structures it's slowed ever so slightly which changes its direction—like the glass in a traditional lens does. And by carefully tuning the angle, size, and spacing of these V-shaped structures across the surface of the lens, it can capture wide-angle or telephoto images without the distortion that's seen from something like a traditional fish-eye lens.
Mirrorless swappable lens cameras have already taken a bite out of the DSLR's market share, but if and when this technology hits the market it could serve as a death blow to the heavy bulky cameras preferred by professional photographers.
Image by Francesco Aieta