Did you think that Phones were thin now? Think again. A major breakthrough in the optics field– the development of metalenses– could make phones, cameras, telescopes, and other optical devices slimmer than ever. Revolutionized by a team of Harvard University researchers, these metalenses could replace traditional, curved, bulky, glass lenses with a thin, flat surface that uses nanostructures to focus the light.

In the past, metalenses have only been able to focus narrower color wavelengths, struggling to capture the full spectrum. This is because different wavelengths of light move through different materials at varying speeds, leading to distortions of the image known as chromatic aberrations, which are the colored fringes that occasionally appear in images when the camera lens fails to focus perfectly. For example, red light moves faster than violet light, so they would reach the same point at different times. The current lenses that are used on cameras utilize multiple curved, glass lenses to solve the issue, but that adds to the size and weight of the device.

chromatic aberrations seen in an image of  Jupiter and its moons

This latest lens, though, has accomplished what the others could not through the use of titanium dioxide nanonfins: focusing the entire visible light spectrum (even white light) at a high resolution in one single spot. With this accomplished, metalenses may very well come into play relatively soon, as according to Federico Capasso, professor at Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and senior author of the research, “Metalenses are thin, easy to fabricate and cost effective. This breakthrough extends those advantages across the whole visible range of light. This is the next big step.”

the visible light spectrum

The intellectual property of these Harvard researchers’ findings has been protected and licensed to a startup company for further commercial development.

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