As science advances and humankind makes technological progress by leaps and bounds, we are greeted by the arrival of novel devices that can potentially be life changing. Scientists from the University of Stuttgart, Germany, have done just that.
Using 3D-printing technology, researchers Timo Gissibl, Alois Herkommer, Harald Giessen and Simon Thiele have invented a micro camera that is so tiny, it can be injected into the human body using a syringe.
The camera's microscopic size makes it ideal to be used for surveillance of the human body, which otherwise would have been a frightening prospect.
The small size of the camera may lead one to wonder about the device's capabilities, but the researchers assure that the lens has powerful implications despite its diminutive frame. The camera is a triple lens one and is just 0.1 mm or 0.004 inches wide, which makes it smaller than a grain of salt.
For those wondering how the technology works, it basically operates by channeling extremely short laser pulses into a liquid. This liquid gets hardened upon absorbing each pulse. Slowly, it takes the shape of a microscopic lens element. The extra liquid is washed away.
The camera is essentially made of both 3D printing tech and lasers. They are able to take images as near as 0.12 inches. Moreover, because the technology has the ability to create multi-lenses, it may possibly be much better than the expensive telephoto lenses on DSLRs.
The camera can be immensely beneficial in the field of medicine. For example, a doctor who is unsure of a diagnosis can simply inject the miniscule camera to investigate what is happening in a patient's arteries. The device would be perfect for use in endoscopy.
The scientists are optimistic that in the near term, the 3D printing of optics will evolve further, especially how optics are manufactured.
"The time from the idea, the optics design, a CAD model, to the finished, 3D printed micro-objectives is going to be less than a day. We are going to open potentials just like computer-aided design and computer-integrated manufacturing did in mechanical engineering a few years ago," says Giessen.
While the technology is not yet ready for commercial use, the researchers are on their path. They have already demonstrated the complete process, which included the optical design. The scientists have also shown sample images and how the camera will be manufactured in place.
The researchers' work has been detailed in the journal Nature Photonics.