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This Camera Lens Is the Size of a Salt Grain and Can Capture High-Res Color Images

Compact camera lenses are utilized not only for smartphones but also for medical devices that doctors and medical practitioners employ to execute a variety of treatments. The endoscopic procedure, in which surgeons insert microscopic cameras into a patient’s body to capture images of internal organs, is the most prominent example. So, in order to design more advanced gadgets for such medical procedures, a group of researchers created a tiny “Neural Nano-Optics” camera the size of a grain of salt!

In a recent publication published in Nature Communications magazine, researchers from Princeton and Washington Universities described the micro-sized camera sensor in detail. The researchers claim in their study that the camera is being developed to produce medical gadgets for invasive medical operations. The new Neural Nano-Optics camera has the advantage of being able to capture images that are significantly clearer than those recorded by existing micro-sized cameras.

According to the researchers, despite its small size, the new camera can capture full-color sharp images comparable to those captured by sensors roughly a million times larger. You may compare an image obtained by an existing high-end tiny camera to an image captured by the Neural Nano-Optics camera in the comparison image (attached below).

“It’s been a challenge to design and configure these little nano-structures to do what you want. For this specific task of capturing large field of view RGB images, it was previously unclear how to co-design the millions of nano-structures together with post-processing algorithms,” said Ethan Tseng, a Princeton University Ph.D. student and the co-leader of the study, in an official press release.

There are two different-shaped cylindrical posts that operate the salt-grain-sized camera lens. The posts have to be designed differently, according to the researchers, in order to “properly form the complete optical wavefront.” Each of these posts serves as an optical antenna, capturing the light that comes in.

The collected light is then sent into a machine-learning system that integrates the two posts’ interactions. This enables the camera to provide a color image that is clean and clear.

Multiple Neural Nano-Optics cameras may be mounted on a wide surface to form a camera array, which could then record high-quality images of interior organs to aid doctors in better diagnosing patients, according to the researchers. According to Joseph Mait, a former senior researcher and chief scientist at the US Army Research Lab, it is the first camera system that uses surface optical technology in the front end and neural processing at the back end.

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