Adaptive planar optics are software-reconfigurable: Page 3 of 3

September 10, 2019 //By Julien Happich
planar optics
Rather than modulating an optical path through mechanical deformation, like it is the case with commonly used spatial light modulators (SLMs), be it liquid-crystal or micromirror-based SLMs, researchers from the Institute of Photonic Sciences (ICFO, Barcelona) have devised a novel type of planar optics whose refractive index can be reconfigured locally and progressively.

When interviewed by eeNews Europe, professor Romain Quidant, leader of the Plasmon nano-optics group at the ICFO revealed his group had applied for several patents regarding this technology, which he aims to commercialize in some form or another.

“There are two aspects of the technology, on one hand, the fixed spiral design that needs to be optimized through iterative genetic algorithms, and on the other hand, the electrical reconfigurability of the SmartLens within the application”, Quidant explained.

“If you rely on one SmartLens as one pixel to shape an image, then the design is very important. But if you rely on a large number of pixels with many adjacent SmartLens spirals each affecting part of a pixelated field of vision, then there is inherent redundancy in the information and the design rules can be relaxed a bit” he hinted.

For smartphone cameras and even microscopes, a low cost SmartLens coating could easily be integrated into the optical path to enable multi-plane refocusing. And for robotic Simultaneous Localization and Mapping (SLAM) applications, large number of micro-sized SmartLens could probably be designed to create the equivalent of a flat multi-faceted compound eye, with arrays comprising a distribution of progressively optimized designs. One could even imagine a multi-layered design capable of multiplexed beam-shaping configurations, with layers optimized for different wavefront shaping functions.

In fact, the applications are so far reaching that Quidant didn’t want to disclose a roadmap yet, only hinting that the optimization algorithms would remain the lab’s secret recipe while different SmartLens configurations and driving software may become available as licensable IP for optical system manufacturers. SmartLens is at an incubation stage at the ICFO and a startup is in the making.

Institute of Photonic Sciences – www.icfo.eu

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