Flat metal lenses promise a revolution in optics

American inventors have succeeded in creating flat lenses from a dye specially applied to glass. A simple, tiny device thinner than a human hair will be able to magnify nanoscale objects much more efficiently than even the most advanced microscope lenses.

This became possible thanks to metamaterials, the properties of which depend on their structure. The new lens is not at all like the usual curved lens. It is made of a thin layer of transparent quartz, on the surface of which there are millions of tiny columns several tens of nanometers in size.

Metalens surface under an electron microscope

Each column individually interacts with light, and in the aggregate, it turns out that the light beam passes through the array. Using computer calculations, the desired template is determined, which reproduces the effect of a conventional lens.

According to one of the creators of the metal lens, Professor Capasso, scientists have managed to avoid many of the disadvantages inherent in conventional lenses. Compared to the best optical objectives of modern research microscopes, the focal spot of a flat lens is 30% better, which makes it possible to reveal very fine details of the objects under study.

Flat lens versus conventional lens

Another important advantage of flat lenses: they can be produced at the same factories as microchips, which is much more profitable and cheaper than maintaining separate factories for optics.