Metamaterial: Camera Imaging Sensor that Needs no Lens

With the commercialization of Smartphones, Photography is for everyone. We may own a small portable camera in the smartphone with small or sensor or a full-fledged dSLR, but we’re strongly dependent on one or the other kind of imaging technology.

All cameras today, whether they are surveillance cameras or dSLRs, requires a lens in order to focus on a point or zoom in to far-off places. Professionals use different kinds of lenses for different kinds of Photography, on the other hand consumer point and shoots have fixed lenses, with fixed focal range and zoom.

Researchers at Duke University have invented a new kind of Camera with imaging sensor that requires no lens. This sensor is more efficient, versatile and cheaper for potential use in such applications as airport security scanners and collision avoidance systems for aircraft, cars or maritime vessels.

The newly invented material called metamaterial, and it acts as a lens to image scenes using fewer components than conventional detectors. Metamaterial removes the need of having lenses, mechanical positioners and data storage or transmissions devices.

What is Metamaterial and How it Works

Metamaterial is a multilayer laminated tiny squares etched onto copper, each one of which is tuned to a different frequency of light. The material is flexible and durable to be rolled around surfaces with ease. It makes up for a perfect cheap alternative to existing Airport security sensors. Metamaterial based sensors works with microwave light and results in 2-dimensional images. There is an on-going research in order to make it shoot 3-dimensional pictures. This would help perform better object tracking and avoid any kind of collisions way in advance.

Related: LYTRO – Camera that needs No-Focus | Focus-free camera

The metamaterial is made of thousands of tiny apertures that can detect a wide spectrum of frequencies, allowing it to obtain a more global image of the scene. Each individual element of the metamaterial is tuned to narrow frequency. Each one of them captures a part of the light

With Metamaterial deployed at airport security, you can scan entire range in a blink where as with conventional security cameras or collision-detection devices, you  have to wait for a scan to complete before you can see an image.

Together the individual elements scan the entire range to capture information about a scene very quickly. This system allows us to collect and compress the image during collection, instead of later, averting the detector, storage and transmission costs associated with conventional imaging of a scene.

Metamaterial based devices are not handy, they won’t fit your pocket anytime soon and it doesn’t operate on visible light frequencies. Metamaterial can produce up to ten images per second, and works only at microwave frequencies. In the future, however, Metamaterial can be moulded to be used for Photography, working purely at visible light.

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