The December 2022 issue of IEEE Spectrum is here!

Close bar

Through a Lens Sharply

Tiny shape-shifting lenses that mimic the lens of the human eye could transform the multibillion-dollar camera-phone market

12 min read
Photo: Philips Research
Photo: Philips Research

The Camera Phone is one of the hottest-selling items in all of consumer electronics, with anticipated sales this year of 170 million units. The little gadgets have become so ubiquitous that hardly anyone finds it odd anymore to see tourists squinting with one eye while pointing their cellphones at a Buddhist temple, a Greek statue, or a New York City skyscraper. It's easy to see why analysts expect that this year camera phones will outsell conventional digital cameras and traditional film cameras combined.

But as anyone who has ever seen them can attest, the images that come out of camera phones leave plenty to be desired. Part of the problem is their CMOS imaging chips, which typically have a sensor array of only about 300 kilopixels--a quarter or less of the number in a low-end digital camera. Of course, semiconductor industry fundamentals ensure that 1-megapixel camera phones will soon be the norm. When they are, however, the only thing we may see more clearly is the other weakness of these cameras: their tiny, fixed-focus lenses, which have poor light-gathering and resolving power.

Keep reading...Show less

This article is for IEEE members only. Join IEEE to access our full archive.

Join the world’s largest professional organization devoted to engineering and applied sciences and get access to all of Spectrum’s articles, podcasts, and special reports. Learn more →

If you're already an IEEE member, please sign in to continue reading.

Membership includes:

  • Get unlimited access to IEEE Spectrum content
  • Follow your favorite topics to create a personalized feed of IEEE Spectrum content
  • Save Spectrum articles to read later
  • Network with other technology professionals
  • Establish a professional profile
  • Create a group to share and collaborate on projects
  • Discover IEEE events and activities
  • Join and participate in discussions

Liquid Metal Stretchy Circuits, Built With Sound

Encase metallic droplets in plastic for elastic electronics

2 min read
Dark photograph of gloved hands holding an item that has the letters DMDL, with glowing yellow rectangles in an assortment of spots on the letters.

Liquid metal particles sheathed in polymers connect microLEDs to make an ultra-stretchable display.

Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology

A team in Korea has used sound waves to connect tiny droplets of liquid metals inside a polymer casing. The novel technique is a way to make tough, highly conductive circuits that can be flexed and stretched to five times their original size.

Making stretchable electronics for skin-based sensors and implantable medical devices requires materials that can conduct electricity like metals but deform like rubber. Conventional metals don’t cut it for this use. To make elastic conductors, researchers have looked at conductive polymers and composites of metals and polymers. But these materials lose their conductivity after being stretched and released a few times.

Keep Reading ↓Show less

"SuperGPS" Accurate to 10 Centimeters or Better

New optical-wireless hybrid makes use of existing telecommunications infrastructure

3 min read
illustration of man looking at giant smart phone with map and red "you are here" symbol
iStock

Modern life now often depends on GPS(short for Global Positioning System), but it can err on the order of meters in cities. Now a new study from a team of Dutch researchers reveals a terrestrial positioning system based on existing telecommunications networks can deliver geolocation info accurate to within 10 centimeters in metropolitan areas.

The scientists detailed their findings 16 November in the journal Nature.

Keep Reading ↓Show less

NYU Biomedical Engineering Speeds Research from Lab Bench to Bedside

Intensive clinical collaboration is fueling growth of NYU Tandon’s biomedical engineering program

5 min read

This optical tomography device that can be used to recognize and track breast cancer, without the negative effects of previous imaging technology. It uses near-infrared light to shine into breast tissue and measure light attenuation that is caused by the propagation through the affected tissue.

A.H. Hielscher, Clinical Biophotonics Laboratory

This is a sponsored article brought to you by NYU’s Tandon School of Engineering.

When Andreas H. Hielscher, the chair of the biomedical engineering (BME) department at NYU’s Tandon School of Engineering, arrived at his new position, he saw raw potential. NYU Tandon had undergone a meteoric rise in its U.S. News & World Report graduate ranking in recent years, skyrocketing 47 spots since 2009. At the same time, the NYU Grossman School of Medicine had shot from the thirties to the #2 spot in the country for research. The two scientific powerhouses, sitting on opposite banks of the East River, offered Hielscher a unique opportunity: to work at the intersection of engineering and healthcare research, with the unmet clinical needs and clinician feedback from NYU’s world-renowned medical program directly informing new areas of development, exploration, and testing.

Keep Reading ↓Show less