Philips Research are demonstrating a new lens at CeBIT – interestingly, this breakthrough in optics might have one of the biggest impacts on digital lifestyles devices of any component at the show.
The new lens, built on Philips’ FluidFocus technology, is based on two fluids with different refractive indices – applying a tiny voltage across then alters the boundary between the fluids and bends the surface, thus changing the way light travels through them. The focal length can be changed very quickly, with response speeds of less than 10ms.
There are several factors that make this lens exciting for digital lifestyles devices – the lens is very small – 3mm in diameter, has a focal length of just 5cm to infinity, and can be mass produced cheaply. It is also very hard wearing: Philips have tested lenses to more than one million focussing operations with no loss of optical performance.
The lens is ideal for many applications – mobile phones, PDAs, digital cameras, sensors, home security, medical imaging … we’re sure you’ve already thought of some good ones too. Image quality in mobile phones and other small cameras should increase too – currently, many lenses are made of plastic with poor optical properties.
So, what’s the catch? Varioptic claim the Philips lens infringes one of their patents, and Philips are contesting their allegation.