The Next Big Thing
Posts about next generation technologies and their effect on business.

Tiny gratings reflect the possibility of significant new technical applications

Last week while at HP’s global technical conference, I had a few minutes with Ray Beausoleil from HP Labs. He was excited about a topic that appears to have some significant potential in both the consumer and industrial area – Dielectric Grating Reflectors.

 

This is another example of taking nanotechnology into areas that can affect many different industries. This research is about creating high-performance, ultra-compact lenses -- enabling miniaturize optical systems. They can be applied to technology applications like fiber optics as well as many other applications dealing with display and distortion using light. Examples include:

  • direct shaping of the beam emerging from a microlaser improving the efficiency of coupling to an optical fiber
  • replacing the expensive compound lens systems in consumer electronic products such as DVD players or digital cameras
  • providing a cheaper alternative to the micro-lens arrays used in CCD image sensors

gratings.png

Rather than using glass and the traditional lens approach shown in (a) above, the approach that has Ray excited uses tiny, tunable, sub-micrometer sized resonators to shift the direction of light. These carefully crafted gratings can either perform the function of a lens (Fresnel zone plate shown in b) or a focal mirror (Subwavelength gratings in c) with greater than 99% efficiency.

 

The possibilities of where to apply this tiny approach to bending light and their impact on technology are blinding, since these lenses can be made by the millions using silicon manufacturing techniques and replace entire stacks of micro-lenses that are costly and relatively difficult to produce today.

 

“Give light, and the darkness will disappear of itself.” Desiderius Erasmus

 

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