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Dr. Watson, I Presume
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On The Job: Critics

Making Waves
Bullet-Proof Teeth
Optical Origami
800-Eye Superfly
Not So Happy Feet
Wakonda's Dreamcatcher
Methane Monsters

Features May 2007: Volume 4, Number 2

Optical Origami


Just how tiny is tiny?

Engineers at UC San Diego have folded up a telephoto lens in order to build a powerful yet ultrathin digital camera. And its final destination may be your cell phone.

“Our imager is about seven times more powerful than a conventional lens of the same depth,” says Eric Tremblay, a UCSD electrical and computer engineering graduate student and the first author of a paper in Applied Optics describing the new technology. Tremblay works with professor Joseph Ford, ’92, leader of the camera project within the Photonic Systems Integration Lab at the UCSD Jacobs School of Engineering.

While traditional zoom lenses rely on a series of separate mirrors and transparent lenses to bend and focus light, a single 5 millimeter thick optical crystal does the same job in the new folded system. Diamond-cut reflective surfaces etched into the crystal bounce light back and forth in a zigzag pattern toward the digital camera’s light sensor.

“When all is said and done, our camera will look a lot like a lens cap that can be focused and used as a regular camera,” says Ford.

As Alice would say: “Curiouser and curiouser.”

Contributors to Making Waves: Mario Aguilera, '89, Rex Graham, Raymond Hardie, Debra Kain, Daniel B. Kane, Kim McDonald


UCSD Press Release

UCSD Jacob's School of Electrical & Computer Engineering

California Institute For Telecommunications and Information Technology (CalIT2)

"Our imager is about seven times more powerful than a conventional lens of the same depth."