Washington: Cornell University scientists have developed a microscopic camera that fits on the head of a pin, contains no lenses or moving parts.
The camera, invented in the lab of Alyosha Molnar, Cornell assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, and developed by a group led by Patrick Gill, a postdoctoral associate, could revolutionize an array of science from surgery to robotics.
Their working prototype is 100th of a millimeter thick, and one-half mm on each side.
The camera resolves images about 20 pixels across – not portrait studio quality, but enough to shed light on previously hard-to-see things.
“It’s not going to be a camera with which people take family portraits, but there are a lot of applications out there that require just a little bit of dim vision,” stated Gill.
Gill’s camera is just a flat piece of doped silicon, which looks something like a tiny CD, with no parts that require off-chip manufacturing.
As a result, it costs just a few cents to make and is incredibly small and light, as opposed to conventional small cameras on chips that cost a dollar or more and require bulky focusing optics.
The scientists call their camera a Planar Fourier Capture Array (PFCA) because it uses the principles of the Fourier transform, which is a mathematical tool that allows multiple ways of capturing the same information.
The study appeared online in the journal Optics Letters (July 6, 2011).