A joint team of researchers from the University of Washington and Princeton managed to develop a tiny chamber, the size of which does not exceed a grain of salt. Despite such a modest size, the device can produce crisp, full-color images in high resolution.
The new development is a transparent panel with a circular pattern engraved on it. It houses 1.6 million cylinders, each of which is designed to refract light in the correct way, forming an optical wavefront. Special algorithms for processing this data create a full-fledged image. According to the creators, it turns out to be much clearer than any other sensors invented before this time. Below is a comparison of images taken by the previous smallest camera (left) and the new design (right).
A camera the size of a grain of sand
The new sensor was able to capture images with a resolution of 720×720 pixels, capturing wavelengths from 400 to 700 nanometers with natural light and full color retention. Scientists argue that the resulting image is as good as pictures taken with a lens half a million times larger than their new device.
The camera is made of silicon nitride, so it is quite easy to manufacture. Surface nanostructures can be created using deep ultraviolet lithography. This technology is already being used in the manufacture of semiconductors. The mass production of these devices can help in the medical field for image enhancement in small robots or various probes.
However, the most promising is the possibility of converting entire surfaces into full-fledged cameras with ultra-high resolution. For example, the entire back of a smartphone can be rendered with one giant camera that will generate ultra-precise images.