Washington, September 23 : You may soon get to buy a cell phone with smarter and lighter cameras, for researchers at a private research university in New York have devised a way to create liquid lenses with water and sound.
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute experts say that their advancement may pave the way for a new generation of lightweight cameras with low cost and high energy efficiency.
They have shown that the lens, made up of two droplets of water vibrating at a high speed, can change shape and move in and out of focus.
The researchers say that they have designed and tested an adaptive liquid lens that captures 250 pictures per second, and requires considerably less energy to operate than competing technologies.
The team have revealed that the lens is made up of a pair of water droplets, which vibrate back and forth upon exposure to a high-frequency sound, and, in turn, change the focus of the lens.
The rate of such vibrations can be controlled by exposing the droplets to different sound frequencies, they add.
According to them, the aid of imaging software to automatically capture in-focus frames and discard any out of focus frames can enable the creation of streaming images from lightweight, low-cost, high-fidelity miniature cameras.
"The lens is easy to manipulate, with very little energy, and it's almost always in focus - no matter how close or far away it is from an object," Nature magazine quoted project leader Amir H. Hirsa as saying.
"There is no need for high voltages or other exotic activation mechanisms, which means this new lens may be used and integrated into any number of different applications and devices," the added Hirsa, professor and associate department head for graduate studies in the Department of Mechanical, Aerospace and Nuclear Engineering at Rensselaer.
When light is passed through the droplets, the device turns into a miniature camera lens.
As the water droplets move back and forth through the cylinder, the lens moves in and out of focus, depending on how close it is to the object.
The images are captured electronically, and software can be used to automatically edit out any unfocused frames, leaving the user with a stream of clear, focused video.
"The great benefit of this new device is that you can create a new optical system from a liquid lens and a small speaker. No one has done this before," Hirsa said.
He is anticipating interest in his new device from cell phone manufacturers, who are constantly seeking new ways to improve the performance of their devices and outpace their competitors in terms of lighter weight, more energy efficient phones.
He also envisions small, lightweight, liquid lens cameras being integrated into a new generation of unmanned and micro air vehicles used for defence and homeland security applications.
Hirsa and Carlos A. Lopez, who co-authored the paper have filed a provisionary patent on the new technology, funding for which was awarded by the U.S. National Science Foundation.