Amazing new camera, the size of a grain of salt, has been created

A new camera the size of a salt grain has been created, capturing images comparable to those from a camera 500,000 times larger.

Published Sat, Dec 4 2021 1:30 AM CST   |   Updated Wed, Dec 29 2021 12:49 AM CST

A collaboration between researchers of Princeton University and the University of Washington has resulted in a tiny new camera the size of a grain of salt.

Amazing new camera, the size of a grain of salt, has been created 01 |

Traditional cameras use curved glass or plastic lenses to focus light rays onto a sensor, while this camera uses a "metasurface." The metasurface measures half a millimeter wide and is covered with 1.6 million cylindrical posts, each approximately 0.1 micrometers in diameter. Each post has unique geometry to allow the best capture of an optical wavefront yet. Using machine learning-based algorithms, computing the interaction of light with all posts generates images with the most detail and widest field of view of any full-color metasurface camera to date. The new camera produced images comparable to a conventional compound camera of more than 500,000 times the volume.

Amazing new camera, the size of a grain of salt, has been created 02 |

"It's been a challenge to design and configure these little microstructures to do what you want. For this specific task of capturing large field of view RGB images, it's challenging because there are millions of these little microstructures, and it's not clear how to design them in an optimal way," said Ethan Tseng, a computer science Ph.D. student at Princeton who co-led the study.

To resolve this, co-lead author Shane Colburn created a computational simulator to test different antennae configurations, approximating a given arrangement's image production capabilities. The metasurfaces themselves are fabricated from silicon nitride, a glass-like material compatible with traditional semiconductor manufacturing processes, allowing metasurfaces to be mass-produced.

One application resulting from these cameras becoming more prevalent and proficient will be increasing the ease of diagnosing and treating disease. More detailed captures inside the human body can be made while also being less invasive. The researchers hope to add capabilities for object detection and other relevant sensors for medicine and robotics.

You can read more from the study here.

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Adam grew up watching his dad play Turok 2 and Age of Empires on a PC in his computer room, and learned a love for video games through him. Adam was always working with computers, which helped build his natural affinity for working with them, leading to him building his own at 14, after taking apart and tinkering with other old computers and tech lying around. Adam has always been very interested in STEM subjects, and is always trying to learn more about the world and the way it works.

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