World's Thinnest Lens Could Revolutionize Nanotechnology


A team of Australian scientists said they have developed the thinnest lens in the world. The new 6.3-nanometer lens, which is 2,000 times thinner than a human hair, can lead to novel advances in medicine and science which could revolutionize nanotechnology.

Putting that in perspective, the previous thinnest lens was 50 nanometers thick. The new world's thinnest lens was created by a team of scientists lead by The Australian National University's Dr. Yuerui 'Larry' Lu.

The new lens was made of a molybdenum disulphide, a type of crystal. The research team used sticky tape to peel off a large layer of the crystal to get the 6.3-nanometer thick (9 atomic layers) from which they will create the lens.

Using a focused ion beam, they developed a 10-micron radius lens by shaving off the layers one atom at a time to achieve the dome-shaped final product. The found that a single, 0.7-nanometer thick layer of the crystal has significant optical properties.

Its high refractive index value of 5.5 allows the light to bounce back and forth several times inside the layers before passing through. In comparison, a diamond's high refractive index is 2.4 while water is 1.3. The new lens can pave the way for more advanced camera lenses.

"The capability of manipulating the flow of light in atomic scale opens an exciting avenue towards unprecedented miniaturization of optical components and the integration of advanced optical functionalities," said Lu.

The new lens can also result to new inventions in bio-designs. Micro-lenses that can imitate those of an insect can become a possibility using the new thin lens.

"This type of material is the perfect candidate for future flexible displays," said Lu. Several companies have created prototypes using the new lens. Some of the earlier prototypes included computer and TV screens that can be folded or rolled up. However, mass producing the technology at a more consumer-friendly price needs more research.

The crystal molybdenum disulphide can survive in high temperatures. It is also a semiconductor and a lubricant. The molybdenum disulphide can also emit photons.

The study published on the journal Light: Science and Applications details the development of the world's new thinnest lens.

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