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Dancing bubbles get the picture

  September 29/October 6, 2008
Squeeze a liquid bubble and you can focus light shining through it. Send sound waves through the bubble and you can focus a lot faster.

Liquid lenses are fast and inexpensive but their speed is limited by the time it takes vibrations to settle down when focusing. A liquid lens that rapidly oscillates at its resonant frequency constantly changes focus. By timing image capture -- an easy task using electronics -- you get the effect of very rapid focusing.

A prototype that uses sound waves to oscillate a pair of bubbles held in a small tube by surface tension can capture 250 images the second, and much higher rates are possible. It also uses less power than other liquid lenses.

The liquid lens could be used to make faster cell phone cameras, sensors and computer vision systems.

Research paper:
Fast Focusing Using a Pinned-Contact Oscillating Liquid Lens
Nature Photonics, published online September 21, 2008

Researcher's homepage:
Amir H. Hirsa

Related stories and briefs:
Sensitive liquid lens -- precursor liquid lens

Back to TRN September 29/October 6, 2008

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