• January 18th, 2013

Researchers at Duke University–which has quite a track record in this field–have built a lens-free imaging system, which uses metamaterials to create the aperture needed to take a picture. Then, through math wizardry, an image is generated as it gathers the information. This is different from a traditional, lensed camera, which gathers the image after it has been snapped. The idea could be built cheaply into vehicles in order to create imaging, says John Hunt, one of the graduate students behind the breakthrough.

The technology uses metamaterials, materials whose properties are purposefully designed rather than being mere chemistry (you probably know them as the stuff you find behind all that invisibility cloaking technology.) A thin strip of metamaterial, which has been mated with electronics and processing software, is used to create an aperture. Then, as the BBC puts it: “The aperture is used to focus different wavelengths of light in different parts of a scene onto a detector. The different frequencies in the scene are sampled sequentially.” As gnarly science goes, this is more gnarly than Gnarls Barkley’s gnarly little toenail.