Microscopic camera created that’s as tiny as a grain of salt

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This itty-bitty camera can detect big problems.

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Researchers from Princeton University and the University of Washington developed a camera So ultracompact that it is the size of a tiny grain of salt.

While the MiniCam is beyond pocket-sized and perhaps useful for covert spy photography, its purpose is far more ethical: to enable medical robots to diagnose and treat diseases via minimally invasive endoscopy.

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The smaller camera’s image quality isn’t compromised by its diminutive size, as it can produce “crisp, full-color images” that are much better than “fuzzy, distorted” ones created using less advanced optics, according to a press release, Indeed, the researchers claim that the camera produces images “equivalent to a conventional compound camera lens” that are 500,000 times its size.

Instead of operating like the light-bending curved glass or plastic lens method of a traditional camera, ultracompact cameras rely on an innovative new “metasurface” technology that measures just half a millimeter wide and is manufactured in the same way as a computer chip. It has 1.6 million microscopic posts that act “like an optical antenna,” the release said, and are roughly the same size as the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

“Previous micro-sized cameras (left) captured fuzzy, distorted images with limited fields of view. A new system called Neural Nano-Optics (right) can produce crisp, full-color images on par with conventional compound camera lenses, “According to the researchers.
Princeton University / University of Washington
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According to Joseph Matt, a former chief scientist at the US Army Research Laboratory, the optical design of the new cam is not new in itself, but its capabilities are leading the way in terms of processing and use of its technology.

“The importance of the published work is to complement the Herculean task to jointly design the size, shape and location of the million features of the metasurface and the parameters of post-detection processing to achieve the desired imaging performance,” he said.

Study co-lead and Princeton Computer Science Ph.D. student Ethan Tseng in a press release.

salt grain camera study
Experimental imaging results from a newly developed camera.
nature.com

The study authors are now working on applying their findings to other types of cameras beyond the microscopic medical field.

Senior study author Felix Heid said, “We can turn individual surfaces into cameras that have ultrahigh resolution, so you won’t need three cameras on the back of your phone anymore, but the entire back of your phone is one giant.” The camera will be made.” “We can think of completely different ways to manufacture devices in the future.”

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