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.

Photography

With 5-stop optical stabilization, Fujifilm GF 100-200mm is ready for adventure

Fujifilm revealed a new lens designed to deliver on the GFX system's promise of adventure-ready medium-format photography. The GF 100-200mm F5.6 R is a weather resistant, relatively lightweight, 2x telephoto with impressive stabilization.
Photography

This A.I.-powered camera follows the action to produce epic selfie videos

Want to capture more epic action selfies? The Obsbot Tail is a camera-gimbal combo that uses artificial intelligence to follow the action. Using a handful of different modes, the camera works to keep the action in the frame.
Photography

Going somewhere? Capture more than your phone can with the best travel cams

Hitting the road or doing some globetrotting this year? Bring along the right camera to capture those once-in-a-lifetime vacation memories. Here's a list of some of our current favorites.
Emerging Tech

Watch China’s moon mission touch down on the planet’s far side

Video has been shared of a lander's-eye view of China's Chang'e 4 mission touching down in the Von Kármán Crater on the far side of the moon. The craft captured footage of the descent with a camera which was attached to the probe.
Social Media

No yolk! A photo of an egg has become the most-liked post on Instagram

Until this weekend, the most-liked post on Instagram was of Kylie Jenner's baby daughter, which has around 18 million likes. It's now been knocked off the top spot not by a stunning sunset or even a cute cat, but by an egg.
Photography

From 4K powerhouses to tiny action cams, here are the best video cameras

Although not as popular as they once were, dedicated video cameras still have their benefits. From travel vlogging to home movies to recording your kid's little league game, here are the best video cameras you can buy right now.
Photography

Authentic, holistic, retro photography is in: Here are 2019’s predicted trends

What types of imagery are we most drawn to? According to recent stock photography data from Adobe, StoryBlocks, and Shutterstock, authentic, holistic, and humanitarian content will be in high demand in 2019.
Photography

Starting your very own vlog? Here are the best cameras to buy

Any camera that shoots video can be used to vlog, but a few models stand out from the crowd thanks to superior image quality, ergonomics, and usability. When it comes to putting your life on YouTube, here are the best cameras for the job.
Photography

The best mirrorless cameras pack all the power of a DSLR, minus the bulk

Mirrorless cameras offer a lot of photography firepower, inside a compact body. Explore the best mirrorless cameras, from the pro-level to the beginner-friendly shooters, in this guide.
Photography

Sony crams its best camera tech into the new $900 A6400

Love Sony's autofocus, but can't stomach the full-frame price? The Sony A6400 mirrorless camera uses some of the same autofocus technology and the processor of the A9 in a compact, more affordable crop-sensor camera.
Photography

These point-and-shoot cameras make your smartphone pics look like cave paintings

If your smartphone camera just isn't giving you the results you're looking for, maybe it's time to step up your game. The latest and greatest point-and-shoot cameras offer large sensors, tough bodies, and long lenses -- something no phone…
Photography

GoPro bumps resolution on Fusion 360 cam to 5.6K with new firmware

Currently available in public beta, Fusion firmware version 2.0 offers a new 5.8K mode that results in 5.6K output when the 360 camera's two hemispheres are stitched together. It also adds support for 24 fps video and RAW time-lapse…
Photography

Olympus teaser shares glimpse of OM-D camera that’s good for more than sports

Is Olympus about to release a new mirrorless camera geared toward sports photographers? The latest teaser offers a glimpse of an upcoming OM-D camera set to launch on January 24, and by the looks of the teasers, it's capable for landscapes…
Photography

Nikon A1000, B600 pack big zooms into compact, budget-friendly cameras

The new Nikon Coolpix A1000 packs in a 35x zoom lens, 4K video, and an optical viewfinder, while Nikon's B600 brings a 60x zoom lens to the table. The cameras are modest updates to Nikon's budget-friendly zoom models.