Researchers at Ohio State University have a made a lens that simultaneously takes pictures of an object from nine angles, images which are then combined to make a 3-D one. The lens, informs The Engineer, “is claimed to be the first single, stationery lens to create microscopic 3D images by itself.”
The lens, roughly the size of a fingernail, is currently in prototype, and looks like a gemstone with eight facets. Lei Li, an OSU postdoc, wrote a program to cut a tiny piece of acrylic glass using an ultraprecision milling device. The facets vary in size and angle, in such a way that an object placed underneath is viewed from multiple angles at once. It’s “basically like putting several microscopes into one,” said Li in a release.
Using the device, the scientists took 3-D pictures of the tip of a ballpoint pen and a miniature drill bit (shown up top), each of which had a diameter of a millimeter or less. True to nerdy scientist form, Li and his fellow researchers are most excited about what this means for their own research: “For us, the most attractive part of this project is that we will be able to see the real shape of micro-samples instead of just a 2-D projection.” But there are multiple applications–it might help the medical industry, for instance, to shrink devices to analyze fluids. More generally, “we hope to help manufacturers reduce the number and sizes of equipment they need to miniaturize products,” Allen Yi, another of the researchers, has said.
Viewing objects from multiple viewpoints at once: it gave our predecessors a robust art movement, cubism. Nowadays, it just gives us 3-D.
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[Images: Ohio State/Kevin Fitzsimons]