Controlling light with sound

It feels like researchers are finally starting to expand their thinking about how images can be captured, and in the process are coming up with some cool new ideas. Whether it’s Lytro or this new project, it seems like we have some cool photography stuff on the horizon!

Troy, N.Y. – New miniature image-capturing technology powered by water, sound, and surface tension could lead to smarter and lighter cameras in everything from cell phones and automobiles to autonomous robots and miniature spy planes.

Researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute 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 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. By using imaging software to automatically capture in-focus frames and discard any out of focus frames, the researchers can create 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,” said project leader Amir H. Hirsa, professor and associate department head for graduate studies in the Department of Mechanical, Aerospace and Nuclear Engineering at Rensselaer. “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.”


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