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Researchers Announce Shape Shifting Lenses - 8/4/2006 3:37:14 PM   

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UW-Madison engineers have discovered a focusing lens that has no mechanical or electrical components

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have announced a "smart" autonomous lens that can focus from minus infinity to plus infinity without external control. The lenses are based on hydrogels that are not susceptible to corrosive environments. The lenses are part of a joint effort at UW-Madison between an electrical engineer Hongrui Jiang and a biomedical engineer David Beebe.

The lenses, which are less than a millimeter in diameter, are not new, stresses the announcement.  What is new is that these lenses will focus based on ambient variables such as temperature or pH -- meaning the devices have no electronics or moving parts needed to adjust the lenses. 

The lens is essentially composed of a water-filled cavity lined with hydrophilic and hydrophobic substances that will shape the water under various conditions. When the hydrogel swells in response to a substance, the water in the tube bulges up and the lens becomes divergent; when the hydrogel contracts, the water in the tube bows down and the lens becomes convergent. “The smaller the focal length, the closer you can look,” says Jiang.

Although the device is far from a commercial application, researchers are already proposing ideas for the lenses.  The most promising ideas so far may be to use the lenses as sensors; by monitoring the convergence of light through the lens, researchers can quickly and cheaply determine the temperature and pH of an environment.

Source: DailyTech
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