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What is planar optics?

Standard lenses and their issues

Everybody uses lenses everyday in some form. It could be in your glasses, smartphone or camera. The principle of lenses has remained the same since the middle ages: a lens is a piece of glass which has been carefully cut, ground and polished.

Nevertheless lenses have important shortcomings, known as aberrations. Not all colours are focussed in the same way by the glass. The (often spherical) shape of the lens causes distortions. On top of that the glass is heavy and bulky.

Meta-lenses

Meta-lenses are an emerging technology that overcomes the limits of traditional lenses. Meta-lenses are made by arranging tiny structures on a surface. The size of the structures are about a few 100 nanometers in width and height. With the right combination of structures any optical function can be made. This means both lenses and optical components can be made or applications that were not possible before.

Meta-lenses have serious advantages compared to standard lenses:

  • Meta-lenses are thinner than a hair. Standard lenses are thick and heavy.

  • Spherical and other shape aberrations can be entirely removed. With “cut glass” lenses aberration corrected lenses are difficult to make and therefore expensive.

  • The nano-structures can be tailored to the colours (wavelengths) that are needed. In normal lenses complicated assemblies are needed to reduce these chromatic aberations.

  • Because of the improvements above lens systems like cameras, VR goggles, microscopes and telescopes will become much less complicated. This will make them lighter, less costly and better.

  • Meta-lenses can be made with CMOS processes and equipment. These are the processes that are used to mass produce computer chips.

The optical nanostructures can be used for more than just making lenses. You can also make polarizers, colour filters, diffraction gratings or holograms. In those cases, the term meta-surfaces or planar optics is more appropriate.

What is PlanOpSim’s role in this?

PlanOpSim is an expert in numerical modeling of optics and photonics. PlanOpSim develops software that makes it easy to design meta-lenses. PlanOpSim can also do the design and integration work for you as a consulting service. Our customers are engineers and scientist working in the field of optics and photonics or are using those components in larger systems.

PlanOpSim does not make meta-lenses but we have a network of partners with fabrication capabilities. Contact us for more information.

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Tutorial videos

Are you curious to understand just how meta-lenses work? These videos will get you started.