Microlenses self-assembled from liquid crystal deliver 4-D images

November 22, 2019 //By Julien Happich
Using a self-assembly process, researchers from Nanjing University have leveraged the optical anisotropic properties of liquid crystals to create a concentric array of microlenses able to simultaneously acquire 3-D space and polarization information, hence producing so-called 4-D images.

Polarized light contains waves that undulate in a single plane, whereas unpolarized light, such as that from the sun, contains waves that move in every direction. Light can become polarized by reflecting off objects, and detecting this type of light can reveal hidden information. Rather than relying on bulky and expensive equipment, all integrated 4-D imaging at the lens-level could open up more possibilities than today’s industrial use.

A concentric array of liquid crystal microlenses provides 4D
information about objects. Scale bar, 20 μm.
Credit: Adapted from ACS Nano 2019.

Reporting their findings in a paper titled “Self-Assembled Asymmetric Microlenses for Four-Dimensional Visual Imaging” published in the ACS Nano journal, the researchers used a polarized optical microscope to various image objects with their new lens, under different directions of linearly polarized light. The microlenses in the array imaged the object differently, depending on their distance from the object (depth) and the direction of polarized light, producing 4-D information.

Although the resolution needs to be further improved, the authors anticipate such self-assembled liquid crystal microlens arrays could find applications in medical imaging, communications, displays or remote sensing.

Nanjing University -  www.nju.edu.cn

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