Researchers at Harvard have developed an exciting new type of camera lens called a metalens that could dramatically improve images of the Sun, Moon, and other celestial objects. This first-of-its-kind metalens is made entirely of glass and has a diameter of 10cm, overcoming previous size limitations.
The key innovation is using a manufacturing technique called deep-ultraviolet lithography to etch billions of nanostructures into the glass that bend and focus light. This allows the metalens to capture crisp, detailed images without the bulky optics required in traditional telescopes. Amazingly, the team can imprint these nanostructures across the whole lens in just minutes.
Previously, lithography tools restricted metalenses to tiny chip-sized areas under 30mm across. Lead researcher Federico Capasso said this was a major obstacle to creating larger lenses viable for astronomy. To get around it, they smoothly stitched together lithography patterns to cover the full 10cm surface.
The researchers demonstrated the metalens’s potential by photographing the Sun, Moon, and a distant nebula from a rooftop. The images rivaled those from standard lenses. In one test, their sunspot photo closely matched one taken by NASA that same day.
Besides optics for space telescopes, the technique could enable wide meta-lenses for phone cameras and aberration-fixing optics. Since the durable metalens withstands vibrations and temperature swings, it’s promising for aerospace applications.
By merging nanofabrication and glass materials expertise, the Harvard team has opened the door to a new generation of lightweight, powerful lenses for studying the cosmos. Their metalens could lead to clearer views of our solar system and galaxies beyond.