Many tech advances have impacted the field of optics in the past year or two, as new and improved technologies have lately emerged. When it comes to their design, microscopes are becoming smaller, easier to carry around, and considerably more user-friendly, as manufacturers begin to understand that portability might, in some situations, matter more than the actual performance of the device.
Whether they pertain to hardware or software, many ever-growing fields have been influenced by this type of user-centered design. Gradually, world-known manufacturing brands such as OMAX, AmScope, Celestron, and many others, have come to grasp the needs of microscope buyers. Given that their requirements are unique, their sets of skills and knowledge allow them to handle technological challenges in a more or less efficient manner.
While the overall design of microscopes has seen few changes over the years, there have been few to no improvements in terms of the lenses used in professional microscopes. Both low-power and high-power microscopes still rely on the same lens developing technology that has been used ever since the 19th century.
Last year, a team of US inventors has managed to come up with an innovatively flat lens that can be manufactured in any foundries that currently produce computer chips. Furthermore, unlike conventional lenses, these new ones are supposed to avoid aberrations, also known as shortfalls. Simply put, the quality of the image seen and captured by the user or with the help of software is superior to that made available by conventional lenses.
After having been compared with standard lenses that are currently used in microscopes designed for research purposes, these revolutionary lenses are said to provide a focal spot that is by up to thirty percent sharper than that of their conventional counterparts.
Described as a game-changing technology by Federico Capasso of Harvard University, this type of lens is made of a single thin layer of quartz with a coating consisting of millions of small pillars. Despite their number, these pillars are only several hundreds of nanometers high and tens of nanometers across. The reason they have been assembled in such a way is that they can thus reconstruct the light beam after having sliced it up, and once the rays have passed through the array. Since the scientists have found that titanium dioxide is transparent, capable of interacting with visible light and doesn’t cost a fortune, it became the paint whitener that was used to create the pillars.
Not only is this new type of lens smaller and more efficient, but it is also perfectly capable of providing better focus than any high-end commercial lens available today. Even though initial prototypes measure 2mm across, the Capasso group claims that the dimensions of such a lens strictly depend on the conditions available in the foundry. With a standardized method, there won’t be anything stopping manufacturers from producing a lens as large as 12 inches across. However, there yet remains to be seen whether or not that will happen as the world is becoming more and more mobile-friendly.
Earlier this year, scientists have managed to make microscopes from droplets, an experiment that has shown just how versatile liquids are in regards to their optical properties. Nonetheless, in order for the research to have a real practical value, the team has yet to create a microfluidic device consisting of layers of such microlenses that can be utilized in the development of pocket microscopes. Once the system has been perfected, we could be witnessing a genuinely ground-breaking innovation.
Despite the many challenges that arise in the field of optics, many inventors seem to be determined to create simpler yet better lenses with features that enable them to provide crisp and clear images that leave no room for interpretation.