Microscopic camera created as small as a grain of salt

This little camera can detect big problems.

Researchers from Princeton University and the University of Washington have developed a camera so super-compact it’s the size of a tiny grain of salt.

While the minicam is beyond the pocket-sized and perhaps useful for covert spy photography, its purpose is far more ethical: to enable medical robots to diagnose and treat diseases through the least invasive endoscopies. possible.

The image quality of the small camera is not compromised by its small size, as it can produce “crisp, color images” that are much better than “blurry and distorted” ones created using optics. less advanced, according to a press release. Indeed, the researchers say the camera produces images “on par with a conventional compound camera lens” 500,000 times its size.

Rather than functioning like the glass or curved plastic lens method of a traditional camera, the ultracompact camera relies on innovative new “metasurface” technology that measures only half a millimeter in height. large and is produced in the same way as a computer chip. It features 1.6 million microscopic stations that function “like an optical antenna,” the release said, and are roughly the same size as the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

“Previous micro-sized cameras (left) captured blurry and distorted images with limited fields of view. A new system called neuronal nano-optics (right) can produce crisp, color images comparable to those of a conventional compound camera lens, ”according to the researchers.
Princeton University / University of Washington

The optical design of the new camera itself is not new, but its capabilities are pioneering in terms of processing and using its technology, according to Joseph Mait, former chief scientist at the Army Research Lab. American.

“The importance of the published work is to complete the Herculean task of jointly designing the size, shape and location of the millions of metasurface features and post-detection treatment parameters to achieve the desired imaging performance,” he noted.

“It’s been a challenge designing and configuring these little nanostructures to do whatever you want,” said co-lead and doctoral student in computer science at Princeton. student Ethan Tseng in the press release.

grain of salt camera study
Newly developed camera experimental imaging results.

The study authors are currently working on applying their findings to other types of cameras beyond the microscopic medical field.

“We could turn individual surfaces into ultra high resolution cameras, so you wouldn’t need three cameras on the back of your phone anymore, but the whole back of your phone would become a giant camera,” Felix said. Heide, lead author of the study. “We can think of completely different ways of building devices in the future. ”

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