Caltech's lensless camera could make phones truly flat

Could Caltech's 'lensless camera' mean flatter phones?

Researchers invented almost completely flat camera that captures images without lenses

Caltech has just released a new research paper titled, "An 8×8 Heterodyne Lens-less OPA Camera", that details how they have created a way for a digital camera to be constructed from an ultra-thin arrangement of photosensors.

"We've created a single thin layer of integrated silicon photonics that emulates the lens and sensor of a digital camera", explains Ali Hajimiri, Caltech professor of electrical engineering and medical engineering.

Traditional cameras-including those found on the thinnest of cellphones-cannot be really flat due to their optics: lenses that need a specific size and shape in order to function.

The design is a miniature version of a phased array, which is also used in radars and wireless antennas.

The smartphone industry is reaching a limit that will be very hard to overcome in the coming years: the phones are getting quite thin but more and more it will be necessary to keep the camera's spine to support a functional lens to capture the light from the photos.

Scientists have now developed a 1x1 millimetre (0.03x0.03 inches) "lensless camera" computer chip that uses algorithms to capture images.

These waves interfere with each other constructively and destructively, amplifying the signal in one direction while cancelling it out elsewhere.

"Here, like most other things in life, timing is everything".

The paper was presented at the Optical Society of America's (OSA) Conference on Lasers and Electro-Optics (CLEO) and published online by the OSA in the OSA Technical Digest in March 2017. After that 3D scanning camera chip for mobile, here is a new innovation that will hopefully make cameras thinner than ever. "We can form an image at an incredibly fast speed by manipulating the light instead of moving a mechanical object." said graduate student Reza Fatemi (MS '16), lead author of the OSA paper.

Moving from the very small to the very big, the 2D-camera could allow for massive, but very light and flat telescopes to be built on the ground or in space, allowing for a far better control than lensed telescopes today and dramatically reducing their maintenance and running costs.

Caltech University has created a new camera that takes photos without a lens and as a result, its body size is considerably reduced. Right now the chip consists of an 8×8 grid with 64 sensors, and the team's next goal is scaling the camera to support larger receivers that are more sensitive and capture a higher-res picture. The research was funded by the Caltech Innovation Initiative (CI2).

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