Micro cameras are extremely useful instruments in the development of scaled technology focused primarily for clinical use. While useful for exploring certain aspects of the human body and even manipulating small robots, these sensors usually capture blurry images.

A new development, arising from joint research by professionals at Princeton and Washington Universities, features a camera sensor the size of a grain of salt, capable of taking visual recordings with better definition and field of view.

Powerful microscopic camera

This new device can capture images with the same quality as a conventional composite camera lens that is larger in volume, according to the researchers’ report, published in an article in Nature Communications.

This system works by the camera hardware and a computational processing element working together. With this development, minimally invasive endoscopy could be carried out, making use of medical robots to diagnose and treat diseases by obtaining images in good registration. By combining arrays of thousands of such cameras, they could be used to detect entire scenes, turning surfaces into cameras.

Whereas a traditional camera uses a series of curved glass or plastic lenses to bend light rays into focus, the new optical system relies on a technology called metasurface, which can be generated in much the same way as a computer chip. Occupying only half a millimeter in width, the metasurface is covered with 1.6 million cylindrical posts, which for reference can each be bought approximately the size of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

When comparing the images produced with this system against results obtained with older metasurface cameras, the former presented a nanometer size comparable to those of a traditional lens configuration, which is more than 500,000 times larger in volume. In addition, these results correct for significant image distortions versus the other photographs compared, improving fields of view and the ability to capture the full spectrum of visible light.

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