WASHINGTON, April 24A droplet of clear liquid can bend light, acting as a lens. Now, by exploiting this well-known phenomenon, researchers have developed a new process to create inexpensive high quality lenses that will cost less than a penny apiece.
Because they're so inexpensive, the lenses can be used in a variety of applications, including tools to detect diseases in the field, scientific research in the lab and optical lenses and microscopes for education in classrooms.
"What I'm really excited about is that it opens up lens fabrication technology," says Steve Lee from the Research School of Engineering at Australian National University (ANU) of the new technique, which he and his colleagues describe in a paper published today in The Optical Society's (OSA) open-access journal Biomedical Optics Express.
Drop, Bake, Repeat
Many conventional lenses are made the same way lenses have been made since the days of Isaac Newtonby grinding and polishing a flat disk of glass into a particular curved shape. Others are made with more modern methods, such as pouring gel-like materials molds. But both approaches can be expensive and complex, Lee says. With the new method, the researchers harvest solid lenses of varying focal lengths by hanging and curing droplets of a gel-like materiala simple and inexpensive approach that avoids costly or complicated machinery.
"What I did was to systematically fine-tune the curvature that's formed by a simple droplet with the help of gravity, and without any molds," he explains.
Although people have long recognized that a droplet can act as a lens, no one tried to see how good a lens it could be. Now, the team has developed a process that pushes this concept to its limits, Lee says.
All that's needed is an oven, a microscope glass slide and a common, gel-like silicone polymer call
|Contact: Angela Stark|
The Optical Society