A new material that “can precisely manipulate light in the nanometer range” was developed by a group of researchers from the University of Washington. The material is 3D-printed and can focus the light at certain points in a 3D spiral pattern. However, the same approach can also be used for optical elements that focus and control light in other models, as stated in the press release accompanying the study published in Science Advances.
Precisely controlling the light to these small sizes can help primarily in the miniaturization of optical components, especially lenses or reflectors. However, such an approach can be useful in many sectors and areas. For example, as stated in the same press release, this discovery may facilitate the construction of ultra-compact depth sensors for autonomous transport or optical elements for displays and sensors for headsets for use in virtual reality and augmented reality.
As Arka Majumdar, a researcher in electrical engineering and information technology at the UW Institute of Nanotechnological Systems and one of the authors of the study, noted, their device has no similarity in the field of refractive optics: “No one has ever created such a device this first with this feature set.”
The main author of the study is Alan Zhan, who recently graduated in physics and had the intuition to create this optical element. The latter essentially consists of a surface covered by thousands of small spheres of different sizes. These microspheres are arranged on a square grid. The researchers created two prototypes, one focusing the light at 1,550 nanometers and the other at 3,000 nanometers.
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