Microscopic camera the size of a grain of salt

Despite being the size of a grain of salt, a new microscopic camera can capture crisp, full-colour images on par with normal lenses that are 500,000 times larger. The ultra-compact optical device was developed by a team of researchers from Princeton University and the University of Washington.

The tiny camera relies on a special ‘metasurface’ studded with 1.6 million cylindrical posts — each the size of a single HIV virus — which can modulate the behaviour of light. Each of the posts on the 0.5-millimetre-wide surface has a unique shape that allows it to operate like an antenna. Machine-learning based signal processing algorithms then interpret the post’s interaction with light, transforming it into an image. The photographs that the tiny device takes offer the highest-quality images with the widest field of view for any full-colour metasurface camera developed to date.

According to the researchers, the camera could be used in small-scale robots, where size and weight constraints make traditional cameras difficult to implement. The optical metasurface could also be used to improve minimally-invasive endoscopic devices, allowing doctors to better see inside of patients in order to diagnose and treat diseases. Felix Heide, an author of the study, also suggests the camera could be used to turn surfaces into sensors with ultra-high resolution.  ‘You wouldn’t need three cameras on the back of your phone anymore, but the whole back of your phone would become one giant camera,’ he explained.

Source (Ian Randall, DailyMail, Say cheese! Microscopic camera the size of a grain of SALT is developed that can produce crisp, full-colour images ‘on par with lenses 500,000 times larger’)