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The team's polymer lenses with GRIN technology  (Source: Michael Ponting)
The team said the new lens could be used to replace damaged or diseased lenses in human eyes, or be applied to aerial surveillance technology

A team of researchers has created a lens that closely mimics that of the human eye, opening up potential opportunities for lifelike human lenses and other technology.

The team, made up of scientists from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, PolymerPlus and Case Western Reserve University, said that the new lens could be used to replace those that are damaged or diseased in human patients.

The lens was created using GRIN technology, which stands for gradient refractive index optics. Traditional lenses use a single index of refraction or surface shape to bend light in a certain direction. But with GRIN, light is refracted by "varying degrees" as it travels through the lens. 

GRIN technology was applied to the new lens built by the team. The lens consists of thousands of nanoscale polymer layers stacked on top of each other, which were created using a multilayer film coextrusion technique. This allows each layer to be shaped appropriately according to GRIN. A 4,000-layer film is coextruded and 200 layers of film are stacked for an 800,000 nanolayer sheet.

Each nanoscale polymer layer has different optical characteristics. This allows the lens to change its refractive index, which further changes the refractive characteristics in the polymer. 

According to results, the lenses are 3.5 times more powerful than glass.

"The human eye is a GRIN lens," said Michael Ponting, polymer scientist and president of PolymerPlus. "As light passes from the front of the human eye lens to the back, light rays are refracted by varying degrees. It's a very efficient means of controlling the pathway of light without relying on complicated optics, and one that we attempted to mimic."

The team said the new lens could be used to replace damaged or diseased lenses in human eyes, or be applied to aerial surveillance technology. 

Source: Science Daily



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Telescopes?
By fishman on 11/15/2012 7:44:39 AM , Rating: 2
I wonder if this could be used to make less expensive refractor telescopes. As lenses get larger, it becomes harder to get all the wavelengths of light to focus at the same point, and requires lenses made of expensive materials that are difficult to work with. Adding this material to a relatively inexpensive acromat telescope could really improve its performance.




RE: Telescopes?
By cutter12 on 11/15/2012 8:15:13 AM , Rating: 2
Well, the size of the lens isn't the problem for color correction. The color correction problem is because each lens is using a glass with only a single refractive index and only two surfaces to control the refraction of the light ray. The top quality apochromatic telescopes use various glass formulas and multiple elements to control the focus of all the colors. That's also why they cost so much. Using this technology might let optical designers create simpler apochromatic designs but they'll probably be expensive too, at least at first. The problem with refractors and size is that the lenses are only supported on their edge, so as the diameter increases the lens starts to deform and warp under it's weight


RE: Telescopes?
By Goty on 11/15/2012 12:25:05 PM , Rating: 2
No to mention that the telescopes would still need to be incredibly long for a given aperture.


RE: Telescopes?
By Gurthang on 11/15/2012 4:15:16 PM , Rating: 2
While I don't want to make it seem like telescopes are not important I think that these polymers were never intended for that use and likely are not practical for large scopes though maybe on the eyepiece side you might be able to reduce the number of elements used. Since they are talking about human lens replacement I wonder if these have the flexibility to reduce the size and complexity of camera lens optic assemblies and focus systems or just improve image quality in small cameras.


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