Agency: European Commission | Branch: FP7 | Program: CP-FP | Phase: NMP-2009-1.1-1 | Award Amount: 5.00M | Year: 2010
The main goal of the project PARYLENS is to develop the next generation optical devices, based on an innovative and reliable concept inspired by natural optical systems such as the human and the fly eyes. We propose the following devices to the European citizen and industry: 1) tuneable lenses 2) truly accommodative intraocular lenses 3) bistable flexible displays The development of those devices relies on recent advances in nanotechnology combined with the patented SOLID (Solid On Liquid deposition) process, which offers the possibility to grow a stable solid layer directly onto a liquid, such that the solid uniformly replicates and encapsulates the liquid template. When using the polymer Parylene as solid layer, the resulting interface is perfectly smooth and the liquid template remains unaffected, which is ideal for optical applications. Parylene is stable, biocompatible, highly transparent, and can be deposited in a one-step process also on liquids. PARYLENS proposes to develop low cost yet high quality, reliable smart devices. The actuation of the tuneable lenses will rely on Parylene-based electroactive polymers and liquid crystals. Tuneable lenses are expected to have an impact on the consumer electronics market (mobile phones, cameras, etc) in addition, the development of low actuation voltages tuneable lenses will profit to the biomedical devices market (artificial eyes, endoscopes, etc). The truly accommodative intraocular lenses will closely mimic the structure and shape of the crystalline lens of the human eye. They will also prevent inflammation and infections. The structure of microlens arrays will be used to develop flexible bistable liquid crystals displays. The consortium is well balanced (12 partners from 8 countries) and goes for full complementarity. It comprises 4 SMEs, 3 universities and 4 research centres. Together they will make this ambitious multidisciplinary project a reality.
Schultz A.,University of Cincinnati |
Chevalliot S.,University of Cincinnati |
Chevalliot S.,Varioptic |
Kuiper S.,Optilux Inc. |
Heikenfeld J.,University of Cincinnati
Thin Solid Films | Year: 2013
Low-voltage electrowetting requires a thin dielectric capacitor and field strengths approaching 1 MV/cm. Unlike traditional metal/dielectric/metal capacitors, the conducting electrowetted liquid can electrically propagate through the smallest dielectric defects or pores, even for the best barrier polymers such as Parylenes, leading to catastrophic failure such as electrolysis. A detailed analysis of double layer dielectric systems is shown to provide > 100 times reduction in defect density, with > 10 cm2 area exhibiting no dielectric failure at > 2 times the required electrowetting voltage. An anodized-Al2O3/Parylene-HT stack provides electrowetting contact angle modulation down to saturation at 70 at < 15 V with breakdown protection to > 3 times that voltage. These results build on previous findings on the effect of ion type, liquid type, polymer dielectric choice, electrode material, and provide a next major advance in electrowetting reliability. © 2013 Elsevier B.V.
Varioptic | Date: 2010-12-21
An optical device for a lens assembly of a camera module is disclosed. The optical device includes a liquid lens having at least one fixed lens and a transparent window, facing each other and delimiting, at least in part, an internal volume containing two immiscible liquids having different optical indices, and a first and a second electrode. The liquids form an interface moveable by application of a voltage between said electrodes. The optical device also includes a liquid lens holder, wherein the liquid lens holder has at least one electrical contact for contacting one electrode of the liquid lens, and at least one Z reference datum for aligning the fixed lens of the liquid lens with other optical elements of the lens assembly.
News Article | February 19, 2005
CNN has reported that a French firm has perfected an optical zoom for camera phones. Varioptic has developed a liquid lens that can provide a 2.5 times zoom optically, which is much better than digital zooms. The lens should be available by the end of the year. By manipulating two fluids in a tiny cylinder of just a centimeter wide, Varioptic has created a lens that can focus. It is small enough to fit in any portable device. It will add a 2.5 times zoom by putting two liquid lenses behind each other. "Nothing moves, except the liquids, of course," Paillard said.
News Article | June 25, 2008
For the “extremely small camera” sector, this could be a real boon. These liquid lenses are fixed in place within the camera, manipulated using electricity, and — well, I’ll let Varioptic explain it: It works much like the human eye, using electricity to alter the shape of two drops of liquid, to bend light, alter focus, and produce a miniature, yet powerful (multi-megapixel) lens for a variety of applications Yes, that sounds exactly like the human eye. But joking aside, this is a really cool idea and considering the continual need to shrink lenses and how crappy most tiny fixed lenses are, it may actually find some real traction. That they can make it work in a fast autofocus situation like a webcam is promising. It always takes some doing to displace a product on the market (especially one with as much inertia as the glass lens) but it’s always worthwhile to try. I hope I get to see one of these little things perform soon.
News Article | June 9, 2011
In 2004, we covered Varioptic's liquid lens technology, reporting that by 2005 consumers could expect to see liquid lens cameraphones on store shelves. It's 2011, and we still don't have those products. But we're getting closer. As a refresher, liquid lenses use two liquids--a refractive liquid (an oil), and a conductive, non-refractive liquid--together in a tiny sandwich, with the conductive liquid touching tiny electrodes. A current is applied to the electrodes to pull the liquid to them, and surface tension between the liquids changes the shape of the refractive material, and thus the optical characteristics of the lens package. Simple liquid lenses have variable focal length, so they can focus. If you put four electrodes around the circumference of the lens, you can also change the axis of the lens, enabling image stabilization. The liquid lenses are faster to focus than current-tech voice-coil focusing lenses, and they take a fraction of the power, too. To make a liquid lens zoomable, you need a stack of three liquid lens components; that's in development. The technology is proven, and has been in industrial and security products for years, but the big manufacturer of liquid lenses, Varioptic, doesn't have the manufacturing capacity to turn out hundreds of millions of components required for the consumer cameraphone. In 2010, a new CEO of Varioptic, Hamid Farzaneh, sold the company to Parrot and spun out a new liquid lens company, Optilux, to focus on the consumer market. Optilux is an American company; Varioptic and Parrot are both French. Farzaneh has an exclusive license to use the Varioptic technology in consumer products, and funding to develop a manufacturing process to scale up to consumer product run-rates (Varioptic can ship about 100,000 lenses a month, a far cry from the millions that Farzaneh thinks the market will want). That's what he came in to talk to me about this week. He's hoping to set up both R&D and manufacturing in the U.S. Over time, as the new company digs into the consumer market, Optilux technology will diverge from Varioptic. Farzaneh said that having manufacturing next door to U.S. engineers will keep development moving faster. It also increases the control the company can maintain of its intellectual property. Finally, he says, he needs an automated system for high-volume production, and automated plants are easier to set up next to U.S.-based engineers, compared with the current liquid lens construction techniques, which are based on hand-assembled lenses that benefit from lower (overseas) labor costs. The timing of all this: We should, Farzaneh says, finally start seeing Optilux liquid lenses in cameras in 2013. These will be the auto-focusing and image-stabilized lenses. The zoom packages could show up in consumer products in 2014.
News Article | February 9, 2007
A French company called Varioptic has announced two camera modules designed for mobile phones and built around an unusual liquid-lens design. Varioptic's Arctic 416 lens combines electrically conducting water with nonconducting oil in a sealed package. Depending on how electrical voltage is applied to the package, the boundary between the oil and water changes geometry, which has the effect of focusing light passing through the liquids. Using this "electrowetting" technology, Varioptic promises compact lenses that focus quickly, consume little power, don't need moving parts and have good transparency to visible light. The first module, the AFCM MI285, combines the lens with a 2-megapixel sensor and autofocus technology. The module is manufactured by one of Varioptic's "leading Asian partners," the company said, and is a "stepping stone to the first camera phone using a liquid lens. We are already working with a number of handset companies to achieve this and should be announcing the first camera phone in the coming months." In addition, Varioptic announced this week that a Chinese company, Sunny Optics, will use the Arctic 416 in another 2-megapixel camera module, the AFCM OV290. Both modules will be demonstrated at the 3GSM show in Barcelona set for Monday through Thursday.
News Article | February 9, 2007
A French company called Varioptic has announced two camera modules designed for mobile phones and built around an unusual liquid-lens design. Varioptic's Arctic 416 lens combines electrically conducing water with nonconducting oil in a sealed package. Depending on how electrical voltage is applied to the package, the boundary between the oil and water changes geometry, which has the effect of focusing light passing through the liquids. Using this "electrowetting" technology, Varioptic promises compact lenses that focus quickly, consume little power, don't need moving parts and have good transparency to visible light. The first module, the AFCM MI285, combines the lens with a 2-megapixel sensor and autofocus technology. The module is manufactured by one of Varioptic's "leading Asian partners," the company said, and is a "stepping stone to the first camera phone using a liquid lens. We are already working with a number of handset companies to achieve this and should be announcing the first camera phone in the coming months." In addition, Varioptic announced this week that a Chinese company, Sunny Optics, will use the Arctic 416 in another 2-megapixel camera module, the AFCM OV290. Both modules will be demonstrated at the 3GSM show in Barcelona set for Monday through Thursday.
News Article | September 30, 2008
Researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) have created an adaptive liquid lens that captures 250 pictures per second. Because these lenses are simply powered by water and sound, they need less energy to operate than competing technologies. According to the project leader, 'The lens is easy to manipulate, with very little energy, and it's almost always in focus -- no matter how close or far away it is from an object.' In fact, this new technique'could lead to smarter and lighter cameras in everything from cell phones and automobiles to autonomous robots and miniature spy planes.' Read more... You can see on the left how this new technique works. This new process used "for creating liquid lenses with water and sound could enable a new generation of low cost, lightweight, energy efficient cameras. This series of time-lapse photos shows how the lens, made up of two droplets of water vibrating at a high speed, changes shape and, in turn, moves in and out of focus. The time between frames is four milliseconds." (Credit: Carlos Lopez, RPI) Here is a link to a larger version of this picture. This development of this new technique has been led by Amir Hirsa, professor and associate department head for graduate studies in the Department of Mechanical, Aerospace and Nuclear Engineering at Rensselaer. Here are two links to his official web page and to his personal home page. Hirsa worked with Carlos Lopez, who earned his doctorate at Rensselaer and now works for Intel Corp.’s research and development lab in Mexico. So how the researchers built these lenses? "The lens is made up of a pair of water droplets, which vibrate back and forth upon exposure to a high-frequency sound, and in turn change the focus of the lens. By using imaging software to automatically capture in-focus frames and discard any out of focus frames, the researchers can create streaming images from lightweight, low-cost, high-fidelity miniature cameras." Here are additional details. "Hirsa said a key feature of his new technique is that the water stays in constant, unchanging contact with the surface, thus requiring less energy to manipulate. To do this, his new method couples two droplets of water through a cylindrical hole. When exposed to certain frequencies of sound, the device exploits inertia and water's natural surface tension and becomes an oscillator, or something akin to a small pendulum: the water droplets resonate back and forth with great speed and a spring-like force. Researchers can control the rate of these oscillations by exposing the droplets to different sound frequencies." In fact, this doesn't look like a camera lens. But wait a minute... "By passing light through these droplets, the device is transformed into a miniature camera lens. As the water droplets move back and forth through the cylinder, the lens moves in and out of focus, depending on how close it is to the object. The images are captured electronically, and software can be used to automatically edit out any unfocused frames, leaving the user with a stream of clear, focused video. 'The great benefit of this new device is that you can create a new optical system from a liquid lens and a small speaker,' Hirsa said. 'No one has done this before.' The size of the droplets is the key to how fast they oscillate. Hirsa said that with small enough apertures and properly selected liquid volumes, he should be able to create a lens that oscillates as fast as 100,000 times per second -- and still be able to effectively capture those images. In "Liquid Lenses Promise Picture-Perfect Phone Cam Photos," Larry Greenemeier provides additional details about the future of this new manufacturing process. (Scientific American, September 29, 2008) Here is a short excerpt. "Hirsa says the research could pave the way to a more sophisticated liquid lens that could be hooked up to a computer program that would only snap digital pictures of scenes or an object that is in focus (instead of taking a series of images in approximate focus from which a photographer can choose). The lens is simpler than earlier liquid lens designs that use a combination of water (or some other fluid capable of conducting electricity) and oil as well as an electric charge. By using water, sound and surface tension to adjust the focus, Rensselaer researchers are hoping to develop more efficient and less expensive lenses than those made by Varioptic, S.A., in Lyon, France, although the company has a significant head start." [Please read a previous post, "Liquid Lenses For Camera Phones" (December 2, 2004) for additional details.] For more information, this research work has been published in Nature Photonics under the title "Fast focusing using a pinned-contact oscillating liquid lens" (Volume 2, Number 10, Pages 610-613, October 2008). Here is the abstract. "Liquid lenses are attractive for applications in adaptive optics requiring a fast response. In conventional designs focusing time is limited by liquid inertia and the time it takes for transients in lens shape to subside. As a result, operation is confined to after the oscillations have dampened. Here we demonstrate a harmonically driven liquid lens with an oscillating focal length, which can capture any image plane in a given range by grabbing the image 'in sync' with the oscillations. By oscillating the lens, the task of changing the focal length is effectively transformed from a mechanical manipulation to the electronic timing of image capture, which can be achieved much more quickly. High-fidelity imaging is demonstrated at 100 Hz for a millimetre-scale liquid lens, which is driven at resonance and features pinned contact lines. Theoretical predictions show that a significantly faster response is possible with scaled-down lenses." This article also made the cover story of the October 2008 issue of Nature Photonics. The scientific journal also carries an interview with Amir Hirsa. If you're not a journal subscriber, please note that an access to the article will cost you $18 while reading the interview will cost you $32. Sometimes, I'm wondering what kind of logic leads to these -- somewhat -- strange pricings. You'll find related stories by following the links below.