Chromatic imaging of white light with a single lens (left) and achromatic imaging of white light with a hybrid lens (right). Credit: The Grainger College of Engineering at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Topics: 3D Printing, Additive Manufacturing, Applied Physics, Materials Science, Optics

Using 3D printing and porous silicon, researchers at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign have developed compact, visible wavelength achromats that are essential for miniaturized and lightweight optics. These high-performance hybrid micro-optics achieve high focusing efficiencies while minimizing volume and thickness. Further, these microlenses can be constructed into arrays to form larger area images for achromatic light-field images and displays.

This study was led by materials science and engineering professors Paul Braun and David Cahill, electrical and computer engineering professor Lynford Goddard, and former graduate student Corey Richards. The results of this research were published in Nature Communications.

"We developed a way to create structures exhibiting the functionalities of classical compound optics but in highly miniaturized thin film via non-traditional fabrication approaches," says Braun.

In many imaging applications, multiple wavelengths of light are present, e.g., white light. If a single lens is used to focus this light, different wavelengths focus at different points, resulting in a color-blurred image. To solve this problem, multiple lenses are stacked together to form an achromatic lens. "In white light imaging, if you use a single lens, you have considerable dispersion, and so each constituent color is focused at a different position. With an achromatic lens, however, all the colors focus at the same point," says Braun.

The challenge, however, is that the required stack of lens elements required to make an achromatic lens is relatively thick, which can make a classical achromatic lens unsuitable for newer, scaled-down technological platforms, such as ultracompact visible wavelength cameras, portable microscopes, and even wearable devices.

A new (micro) lens on optics: Researchers develop hybrid achromats with high focusing efficiencies,  Amber Rose, University of Illinois Grainger College of Engineering

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