Cameras have been around for a very long time and have used float glass for lenses for almost a long time. In a smooth glass lens, the subtle curvature of the lens allows light to be focused and provide sharp images to the photographer. To change focus, the lens usually requires physical movement by tilting, sliding, or shifting through the mechanical parts.
These mechanical parts add complexity and mass to microscopes and telescopes. Massachusetts Institute of Technology Engineers have developed new tunable metals that can focus on objects at multiple depths without changing their physical condition or shape. The lens is not made of glass. Rather, it uses a transparent, phase-changing material that is able to rearrange its atomic structure when heated.
When she rearranges its atomic structure, the way matter interacts with light changes. Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers are drilling the surface of the material with fine, precisely patterned structures to form a supernatural surface to refract or reflect light in unique ways. When the properties of the material change, the optical function of the superficial surface is different.
In MIT, when the material is at room temperature, it focuses light to generate clear images of an object at a certain distance. When the material is heated, the atomic structure changes allowing the metamorphosis to redirect light to focus on distant objects. This allows the mineral to set its focus without the need for any bulky mechanical elements.
Currently, MIT metalens images in the infrared range and can create optical devices such as miniature heat ranges for drones, ultrafine thermal cameras for mobile phones, and low-profile night vision goggles. MIT researchers say that their creativity is able to achieve aberration-free imaging of interfering objects placed at different depths that rival conventional and more massive optical systems.