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Friday, 13 December 2019

Liquid crystal microlenses capture 4D images

The polarization of light brings a new world of information.

4D images

While most images captured by a camera lens are still flat and two-dimensional, more and more 3D imaging technologies are providing the crucial depth context for medical and scientific applications.

An additional step is in 4D images, whose additional dimension refers to information about light polarization.

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This may open even more application possibilities, but the first prototypes of this technology, such as a 4D microscope , consist of bulky, expensive and complicated equipment.

Now researchers at Nanjing University in China have developed liquid crystal microlenses that can reveal 4D information in a single photographic shot.

The microlenses do not have to be "fabricated" - they assemble themselves thanks to the liquid crystal.

Polarized light

Polarized light contains waves that oscillate in a single plane, while unpolarized light, such as that of the sun, contains waves that move in all directions. Light can become polarized upon reflection of objects, and detecting such light can reveal information that is not available just by looking at the object - for example, cancer cells may reflect polarized light differently from healthy tissues.

Ling-Ling Ma and his colleagues wanted to develop a portable, inexpensive, easy-to-use microlens to simultaneously capture 3D space information plus polarization producing 4D images.

They succeeded using liquid crystals. With a self-assembly process, they modeled microlens arrays in concentric circles, creating a new type of flat lens .

Microlenses capture light reflected by the object differently depending on the distance from the object (depth) and the direction of polarized light, producing 4D information in a single shot.



Although the resolution still needs to be improved, the technique could be used for medical imaging, telecommunications, screens and monitors, remote sensing and even encryption, the researchers say.


Bibliography:

Article: Self-Assembled Asymmetric microlenses for Four-Dimensional Visual Imaging

Authors: Ling-Ling Ma Sai-Bo Wu, Wei Hu, Chao Liu, Peng Chen, Hao Qian, Yandong Wang Lifeng Chi, Yan-qing Lu

Magazine : ACS Nano

DOI: 10.1021 / acsnano.9b07104

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