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Ultra-thin lens looking to revolutionise optics.

A flat lens measured in nanometres could represent a giant leap forward for spectacles and contact lenses.

Researchers at the Harvard John A Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Science have designed a lens based on a specialised array of titanium dioxide 'nanofins' on a glass substrate.

This patented structure--known as a 'metasurface'--bends the light as it passes through, according to the paper published in the journal Science.

The technology could replace the current lenses in spectacles and contact lenses, which are ground and shaped into corrective optical curves by specialised machines.

The published research was on a static 'metalens' lens, but physics researcher, Professor Federico Capasso, told OT that "we are working on a lens technology that is adjustable. Once we do that it should be possible to apply this technology to making an adjustable contact lens."

One of the most exciting things about the titanium dioxide nanostructure is that it affected light across the whole visible spectrum, Professor Capasso said. The manufacturing process could also revolutionise the industry, he explained, adding: "In the near future, metalenses will be manufactured on a large scale at a small fraction of the cost of conventional lenses, using the foundries that mass produce microprocessors and computer chips."

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The technology will have applications for the lenses in microscopes and cameras, but the researchers said "one of the most exciting" potential areas is wearable optics, particularly virtual and augmented reality.

Tompkins Knight & Son dispensing optician, Andrew Oliver, told OT that: "This new technology could see a total shake-up of ophthalmic dispensing on the whole. Lens dispensing will become virtually electronic and a world apart from the physics and manufacturing of today. Lens design and supply could be pushed towards computer-aided design, with possibly no constraints of the five Seidel aberrations that are apparent in third-order optics."

Mr Oliver, an AOP Awards 2015 Dispensing Optician of the Year runner-up, highlighted the benefits to patients, explaining: "Patients with prescriptions that are now limited to a small number of frame and lens options could see their choices being limitless."

He added: "The weight of lenses, the cosmetic magnification or minification of the eyes and image size-spectacles magnification disadvantages of their optical correction could be eliminated, leading to an all-round enhanced pair of spectacles and lifestyle."

Mr Oliver said he would keep a close eye on the technology and its potential application as an ophthalmic optical correction option.

"I see this lens option, when the technology is developed, to be initially expensive, but with wider use and distribution, different costs and options will surely follow," he outlined.

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Title Annotation:investigates
Author:Wannan, Olivia
Publication:Optometry Today
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jul 1, 2016
Words:431
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