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New Lens Fab Method Improves Mass Production and Size

CALIFORNIA, DEC 28, 2016 - Research engineers from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) recently demonstrated the ability to stack metasurfaces to form a new type of flat optical lenses capable of mass production.


Unlike conventional optical systems where glass or plastic lens elements are fabricated independently and aligned during assembly, these metasurfaces or extremely thin films of "metamaterials" can be fabricated and aligned in a single step.

The process employees a common lithographic production technique found in the semiconductor industry to make computer chips. Instead of layering miniature circuit traces onto silicon, the Caltech team combines layers of metamaterial consisting of millions of round silicon nanoposts only 600 nanometer tall. In contrast, a human hair is only 100,000 nanometers wide.

Similar to traditional optical lenses, controlling the diameters of these nanoposts allows engineers to control the path of light as it passes through. By combining multiple layers of metasurfaces, engineers can stack the new lenses to achieve a corrected or ideal image onto an image sensor.

With this technique, the Caltech team envisions a seamlessly integration of lens and image sensor into mass produced commercial products such as drones, automobiles, miniature endoscopes, cell phones, or other consumer based portables.

Source: (image courtesy of Caltech)