Camera the Size of a Grain of Salt

Salt Grain-sized Camera
Salt Grain-sized Camera

When talking about the concept of scientific creativity, it is not possible to mention the dimensions of the cameras. Hold on tight, we can say that the size of the cameras continues to get smaller and smaller, and they are now the size of a grain of salt.

We are talking about a camera that uses a technology known as metasurface, which consists of 1,6 million cylindrical parts.

About half a million times larger than this camera, it's a camera that's as good as images taken with conventional lenses. The quality of the images it takes is also on par with the others and it has the ability to take color photos.

What Nano Cameras Will Provide

Let's share with you just a few of the things you can do with this super little mechanism;

  • for miniature soft robots to explore the world
  • help experts understand what's going on deep inside the human body.
  • The advantages of being minimal in space technologies

“Designing and configuring these tiny microstructures to do what you want has been a challenge,” says computer scientist Ethan Tseng of Princeton University in New Jersey.

“For this particular task of capturing wide-field RGB (Red – Green – Blue) images, it was previously unclear how millions of nanostructures would be co-designed with post-processing algorithms,” he says.

One of the special abilities of this nano camera is the way it combines hardware with computational processing to improve the captured image.

Signal processing algorithms are used to avoid blurring and other distortions that occur in cameras of this size.

These algorithms can be used for more than just image enhancement. They can be deployed to automatically detect certain objects the camera is looking for, such as signs of illness in the human body.

This process adds to the metasurface structure, replacing the usual curved glass or plastic lenses with a material only half a millimeter wide. Each of the 1,6 million cylindrical masts has been individually designed to best capture what's in front of the camera, with computational modeling used to find the optimum configuration.

metasurface image comparison rta
A photographic comparison between a prior state-of-the-art micro camera (left) and metasurface (right). IMAGE: Princeton University

"The importance of the published work is in designing the size, shape, and position of millions of features of the metasurface, and the parameters of post-detection processing to achieve the desired imaging performance," said computer imaging consultant Joseph Mait.

The glass-like silicon nitride from which the metasurface is made is a material that fits into traditional electronics manufacturing processes.
This means it shouldn't be too difficult to scale up production of these super-small cameras using already existing procedures and equipment.

So while there's still a lot of work to be done to get this from the lab to the commercial production line, there are signs that it's possible.

Once this is done we will have access to super small cameras that can take really good pictures.

There is another potential use for miniature cameras.

For example: We're talking about using all surfaces as a coating layer to turn them into cameras, eliminating the need for a traditional camera on top of a laptop screen or on the back of a smartphone.

“We can turn individual surfaces into ultra-high resolution cameras so you no longer need three cameras on the back of your phone, but the entire back of your phone becomes one giant camera,” says Felix Heide of Princeton University.

“We can think of completely different ways to build devices in the future.”

Source: Sciencedaily.

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