The revolutionary flat lens just got an upgrade with the ability to capture color

flat lens gets color upgrade schematic copy
An illustrated image shows how the new pattern in the achromatic flat lens works. Vyshakh Sanjeev / Harvard SEAS
The Harvard research team behind the first flat lens is now creating an ultra-thin, single layer lens that can see in color.

The group from the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences created the first planar, or flat, lens last year using a 600-nanometer thick metasurface pattern made from titanium dioxide. The flat lens was revolutionary enough to be named among Science Magazine’s top discoveries of 2016.

The problem? The lens could only focus one wavelength (i.e. one color) at a time. Traditional lenses use multiple glass pieces not just to focus the light, but to make sure each different wavelength or color focuses on the same point. The first flat lens, while exciting in its ability to focus light with a single layer, couldn’t make those wavelengths meet using that single layer. When the wavelengths don’t meet, the image has visible color fringing around objects, known as chromatic aberration.

The same research group, however, has now enhanced the lens to capture several different wavelengths by optimizing the way the tiny pillars that make up the metasurface lens are placed. Adjusting the pattern of the nanopillars allows the new lens to focus wavelengths from 490 to 550 nm without that color distortion.

The lens’ range means it can only capture blues, greens, and everything in between, but the tweaked design is at least the first to capture a continuous range of different wavelengths, instead of a single wavelength at a time.

Like the initial lens, the concept could eventually have a variety of uses. Since the lens uses only a single layer of readily available material, the lens could theoretically be mass produced more affordably than traditional glass optics, not to mention the advantages of its much smaller profile.

“This method for dispersion engineering can be used to design various ultrathin components with a desired performance,” said Zhujun Shi, a co-first author of the paper and a PhD student in the Capasso Lab. “This platform is based on single-step lithography and is compatible with high throughput manufacturing technique[s] such as nano-imprinting.”

The research group is aiming to advance and commercialize the technology with a startup company, working closely with the Harvard Office of Technology Development, and has already filed a portfolio of related patents.

Emerging Tech

Gorgeous image of the Cosmic Bat nebula leaves us starry-eyed

The "Cosmic Bat" nebula has been captured in beautiful detail by the European Southern Observatory. Formally known as NGC 1788, the nebula is two thousand light-years away in a dark corner of the Orion constellation.
Emerging Tech

Opportunity’s final image is a haunting panorama of the Martian surface

The Opportunity mission to Mars may be no more, but the rover's legacy lives on. Now NASA has released the final image captured by Opportunity, and it's a stunning panorama of the Martian surface.
Mobile

The Xiaomi Mi 9 is the powerhouse smartphone 2019 has been waiting for

The Xiaomi Mi 9 is the brand's latest phone, and it's a real powerhouse. It comes with a Snapdragon 855 processor, a triple-lens camera, a new in-display fingerprint sensor, and a new design. Here's what you need to know.
Photography

The Lensbaby Composer Pro II with Edge 35 mimics tilt-shift blur for less cash

Want to create a tilt-shift image on a budget? The new Lensbaby Composer II with Edge 35 mimics the look of a tilt-shift lens for under $500. The new Edge 35 optic is part of the Composer Pro II optics system.
Photography

Amid confusion, the Red Hydrogen team promises a pro in-device camera

Learning from the Red Hydrogen One, the company is gearing up for a pro-level device. In a forum post, Red's founder shares how the team is designing a Red Hydrogen with a pro-level in-device camera.
Photography

Sony FE 135mm f/1.8 is sharp enough to handle futuristic 90-megapixel cameras

Lens launches come with a lot of hype and marketing speak but a recent test confirmed some of the initial claims around the Sony FE 135 f/1.8. A rental company says that the Sony 135mm is the sharpest lens that it has ever tested.
Photography

Forget folding phones, the Insta360 EVO camera folds in half to shoot 360 video

The Insta360 EVO is a...flip camera? Unfolded, the Insta360 Evo shoots 3D in 180 degrees, folded, the new camera shoots in 360 degrees. The EVO launches with what are essentially a pair of 3D glasses for your phone, not your face, the…
Photography

Obsbot Tail camera uses A.I. to follow the action (or a pet) for you

Want to capture more epic action selfies, or see what your pet is doing while you're gone? The Obsbot Tail is a camera-gimbal combo that uses artificial intelligence to follow the action.
Social Media

Twitter takes a cue from Instagram and Snapchat with new quick-swipe camera

Twitter is giving the "what's happening" treatment to photos and video by allowing users to access the in-app camera fast enough to catch and share the moment. The new Twitter camera is now accessible with a swipe.
Photography

Loupedeck Plus can now edit video, audio with Final Cut Pro

The list of Loupedeck Plus-compatible software is growing. The photo-editing console now works with Final Cut Pro and Adobe Audition for video and audio editing. The controls can be configured to be used on either platform.
Photography

Photography News: Taking a smartphone photo probably saved this guy’s life

A man was snapping a photo in Australia when the smartphone stopped an arrow shot at his face. In this week's photography news, see Canon's plans for a stabilized mirrorless, Hasselblad's newest accessories, Samyang's latest lens, and more.
Deals

The best budget-friendly GoPro alternatives that won’t leave you broke

Cold weather is here, and a good action camera is the perfect way to record all your adventures. You don't need to shell out the big bucks for a GoPro: Check out these great GoPro alternatives, including some 4K cameras, that won’t leave…
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Write music with your voice, make homemade cheese

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Computing

Nvidia’s A.I. Playground lets you edit photos, experience deep learning research

Nvidia is making it easier to access information on deep learning research. It has launched an online space with three demos for image editing, styling, as well as photorealistic image synthesis.