Lab-Made Compound Lens Works Like Flies’ Eyes
Microscopic liquid crystals have been made into a compound lens that could be used for 3-D imaging. University of Pennsylvania researchers built the lenses by creating tiny pillars out of a polymer sheet. The liquid crystals were then applied onto the sheet and self-assembled around the pillars’ curved surfaces.
Each variably sized crystal produces clear images at different focal lengths. They arrange themselves from largest to smallest crystals in concentric rings around the pillar
“That they focus on different planes is what allows for 3-D image reconstruction,” said chemist Shu Yang. “You can use that information to see how far away the object you’re seeing is.”
The crystals are also sensitive to light polarization. In the gif below, created from a video that accompanied the group’s study in the journal Advanced Optical Materials, light polarization is shifted from vertical to horizontal to vertical again. With vertically polarized light, images of smiley faces only come into focus in the lenses to the left and right of the micropillar at center. See the video below.