Nowadays cameras are one of the hottest selling items in all of consumer electronics. But as anyone who has ever seen them can attest, the images that come out of these camera phones leave plenty to be desired. Part of the problem is their CMOS imaging chips, which typically have a censor array of only about 300 kilo pixels-a quarter or less of the number in a low-end digital camera. But the major problem is their tiny, fixed focus lenses. These fixed focus lenses are very small but they have poor light gathering power and resolving power. Conventional auto focus systems used in high quality digital cameras use motors and gears to shift the position of the lenses. They have high quality, but are difficult to miniaturize because of the gears and motors. ‘FLUID FOCUS LENSES’ can combine both these qualities. It is a special type of lens developed by Philips Research Laboratories. It uses the principle of a human eye. Like the lens of a human eye it focuses on objects at different distances by varying


the shape of the lens rather than by varying the relative positions of multiple lenses. It uses electrostatic force to alter the shape of a drop of slightly salty water inside a cylinder 3 millimeters and 2.2 mm long. So it can be made to be very small and the images taken by using these lenses will be having very high quality. These superior capabilities of ‘FLUID FOCUS LENSES’ should make them ideal not only in camera phones but also in products whose design constraints demand a tiny but capable optical systems.


The main part of a camera is lens.Then the term focal length describes the distance from the surface of the lens to the focal point or center point at which light rays converge. the focal length determines the length of the lens. In cameras. or a CCD(charged coupled device) for a digital camera. a media holder. and a viewfinder. the lens is the device on the front face (or in a tube extending from the front face) that gathers the incoming light and concentrates it so that it can be directed toward the film (in an optical camera) or the imaging device (in a digital camera). A lens is an optical device that focuses light rays. 3 . A simple camera consisting of a lens. a shutter.Camera A camera is a device that captures an image on a film for an optical camera. The term focus means to move the lens or film/image sensor in order to record a sharp image.

Since the speed of light is slower in a glass lens than in air. a light ray will be bent upon entering and upon exiting a lens in a way that depends upon the shape and curvature of the lens.Image Formation by A Lens Image formation by a lens depends upon the wave property called refraction. In the case of a converging lens such as the double convex lens shown below. Refraction may be defined as the bending of waves when they enter a medium where their speed is different. The distance from the lens to this principal focus point is called the focal length of the lens and will be designated by the symbol f. A 4 . parallel rays will be brought together at a point.

and will be used as the basis for a qualitative 5 .converging lens may be used to project an image of a lighted object. For example. the distance from the lens to the bright object (o) and the distance from the lens to the projected image (i). the converging lens in a slide projector is used to project an image of a photographic slide on a screen. There is a geometrical relationship between the focal length of a lens (f). and the converging lens in the eye of the viewer in turn projects an image of the screen on the retina in the back of the eye. The relationship between the distances illustrated in Figure 2 can be expressed as : This relationship will be used to determine the focal length of a glass lens.

inverted). Position the lens and white screen on the optical bench and place them so that the distance from the lighted "object" to the lens can be measured on the bench scale. Object distance (1) (2) Image distance Focal length Description of image 6 . compared to the object (e. 1. and calculate the focal length from the lens relationship. larger.investigation of image formation by the eye with the use of a large eye model. erect. Adjust the object distance to a different value and repeat the process with a different set of measurements. Determine the object distance and image distance. smaller. Describe the appearance of the image. Adjust the screen to get a clear image.g. o and i. The calculation of focal length of a lens is described below.

But the 7 .hidden security cameras.2.DVD recorders. Nowadays these fixed focus lenses are widely used in camera phones. But the focal length of a variable focus lens can be changed for the need of zooming. expressed in meters? 3. variable focus lens A fixed focus lens is a lens in which the focus is preset and is not adjustable. Then these lenses can be classified into two: 1. The unit is 1/m but this unit is commonly called a "diopter". Fixed focus lens 2. webcams . What is the average of your focal length measurements. The lens strength in diopters is defined as S = 1/f(in meters). pocket size conventional digital cameras.and endoscopes.

Fluid focus lens is a solution for this. Also these have poor light-gathering and resolving power. This functions like our eye. These fixedfocus lenses use a small aperture and short focal length to keep most things in focus. 8 . which typically have a sensor array of only about 300 kilopixels—a quarter or less of the number in a low-end digital camera. Fluid Focus lens can be made nearly as small as a fixed-focus lens. It varies its focus by changing shape rather than by changing the relative positions of multiple lenses. Thus to study about fluid focus lens we have to analyze the functioning of human eye. Part of the problem is their CMOS imaging chips. as high-quality camera lenses do. but at the sacrifice of light-gathering power and therefore of picture quality. Fluid focus lens delivered sharpness that is easily on a par with that of variable-focus lenses.images that come out of these equipments leave plenty to be desired.

Eye Anatomy When you look at an object. light rays are reflected from the object to the cornea. and vitreous. refracted and focused by the cornea. which is where the miracle begins. The lens' job is to make sure the rays come to a sharp focus on the 9 . lens. The light rays are bent.

where the image is translated and perceived in an upright position! Think of the eye as a camera. 10 . A camera needs a lens and a film to produce an image. The retina represents the film in our camera.retina. the light rays are converted to electrical impulses which are then transmitted through the optic nerve. In the same way. crystalline lens. If any one or more of these components is not functioning correctly. It captures the image and sends it to the brain to be developed. or focus the light and a film (retina) on which to focus the rays. vitreous) to refract. the eyeball needs a lens (cornea. The resulting image on the retina is upside-down. Here at the retina. to the brain. the result is a poor picture.

Fluid focus lens uses the phenomenon called electrowetting .Theory Behind Fluid Focus Lens A fluid focus lens varies its focus by changing its shape. the liquid surface curves upward near the clean cylinder wall.2 mm long. The muscles change the shape of the lens and alter its focal length. because grease repels water. uses electrostatic forces to alter the shape of a drop of slightly salty water inside a glass cylinder 3 millimeters in diameter and 2. The human eye focuses on objects at different distances by contracting and expanding muscles attached to the lens. The surface of a column of water in a clean glass cylinder forms a bowl-shaped meniscus. If the glass is greasy. the water surface curves downward near the wall. Because the molecules in the glass attract water molecules. The lens exploits surface-tension characteristics of fluids. One end of the cylinder points toward the image plane.In electrowetting electric fields are used change the shape of a water 11 . on the other hand. Fluid focus lens. the other is directed at the subject being imaged.

12 . i. As a result of the voltage. the wettability of the surface increases strongly. The left hand side shows a water droplet on a hydrophobic surface. Figure – water droplets on hydrophobic surface without and with voltage applied. In the photograph on the right hand side. Electrowetting With electrowetting a voltage is used to modify the wetting properties of a solid material.drop sitting on a metal surface. a voltage difference is applied between the electrode in the water and a sub-surface electrode present underneath the hydrophobic insulator material. the surface better when it is attracted by an electric field. The drop wets.e. An example of such increased wettability is illustrated in the photographs of figure . The water droplet does not like to be in contact with the surface and therefore minimizes the contact area. or contacts. the droplet spreads.

When the voltage is removed. 13 . the water surface is convex [top figure]. At the inner surface of the glass are cylindrical layers of an electrode. on the very inside. With no voltage on the electrode. parallel light rays passing through the meniscus—the interface between the water and the oil spread out. and. the droplet returns to the original state indicated on the left hand side. an insulator. Structure Of A Fluid Focus Lens The FluidFocus lens comprises a volume of water [blue] covered by a volume of oil [tan] inside a glass cylinder [light blue]. a water-repellent material. And because the refractive index of oil is greater than that of water.

and behind this coating is an electrode. making it act less repellent. Working Of A Fluid Focus Lens The cylinder containing the water drop is filled with oil. 14 . and the water surface becomes concave. and the shape of the interface between the two—the meniscus—determines its focal length. parallel light rays passing through the meniscus converge at a focal point. Here.A voltage on the electrode attracts water molecules toward the cylinder's surface. the water and the oil make up the lens. Around the inside walls of the cylinder is a water-repellent Teflon-like coating. Basically.

The surface of a column of water in a clean glass cylinder forms a bowl-shaped meniscus. the liquid surface curves upward near the clean 15 . Because the molecules in the glass attract water molecules. The lens exploits surface-tension characteristics of fluids.Changing the voltage on the electrode changes the shape of the interface and alters the focal length of the lens.

because grease repels water. The curvature of the meniscus depends on the diameter of the cylinder and on how strongly the cylinder wall repels or attracts 16 . Without gravity the water surface would be spherical—the ideal shape for a focusing lens. because only then does gravity attract the oil and the water with equal force. The optical power of the lens that forms at the surface between the oil and the water depends on two things: the curvature of the meniscus and the difference between the refractive indices of the oil and water. In our lenses. the water surface is nearly flat because of gravity. the oil must have the same density as the water. which doesn't mix with the water. If the glass is greasy. we cancel the effect of gravity by keeping the drop small and covering it with oil.cylinder wall. The result is a water-to-oil interface whose shape will hold with any orientation of the cylinder but can be changed by a voltage on the surrounding electrode. The refractive index—the ratio of the speed of light in a vacuum to its speed in the medium—characterizes the amount by which light bends when it passes from one medium to another. To completely cancel the effect of gravity. we use a mixture of special silicone oils (phenylmethylsiloxanes) with that identical density. At the center of the meniscus. In our lens. the water surface curves downward near the wall.

17 . Smallness is inherently advantageous. So the water touches the cylinder only at the flat surface on one end. with the center bulging outward beyond the ring where the water comes closest to the cylinder. a voltage on the electrode attracts the water and produces a concave meniscus. because it minimizes the effects of gravitational pull on the liquid.the water. With no voltage on the electrode. That attraction or repulsion changes with the voltage on the electrode. forcing the edges beyond the center. Advantages Of A Fluid Focus Lens One Important Advantage of liquid lens is that it can be very small. the meniscus is hemispherical. because the electrostatic forces between the liquid and the inner surface of the cylinder become stronger as the lens size shrinks. which has no water-repellent coating. In our lens. miniaturization makes liquid lenses more powerful. However. the coating on the inside walls of the cylinder repels water so strongly that the water does not even touch it: there is a very thin oil layer between the coating and the water. In addition.

which can refocus in about 200 ms. right] built with a FluidFocus lens [bottom. much faster than the human eye. An actual variable-focus camera [bottom. which would still be four times faster than that of the eye. The optical power of a lens is specified in diopters.5 millimeters high.This property makes small electrowetting lenses very fast. a measure of how much the lens can bend light. Scaled to the size of a human eye lens. the refocusing time would increase to 50 ms. Fluid focus lens can refocus in 10 milliseconds. The dioptric value of a lens is proportional to the inverse of the radius of curvature of the lens in 18 . left] is only 5.

which allows the image to be projected sharply onto the flat CMOS image sensor.meters. The closer objects are to a lens. Our liquid lens changes its focus by changing its optical power through the change of the water drop's radius of curvature with voltage on the electrode. for example. 19 . allowing the wearer to see things that are close. eyeglasses of +2 increase the optical power of the eye by 2 diopters. So when an object is far away. The eye does not need such a lens because the image sensor in the eye (the retina) is curved. a lens needs less optical power to bring it into focus than it does when the object is near. At the back of the camera is a CMOS imager with a 640-by-480-pixel sensor array. The strength of eyeglasses is also expressed in diopters. we can consider a digital camera just 5. A glass plate seals the liquid lens on the side near the imager. the more the lens must bend the light to bring them into focus. So.5 mm high and 4 mm across. In front of this plastic lens is the liquid lens in its cylindrical glass housing. To demonstrate the advantages of liquid lens. The oil side of the liquid lens is close to the imager. Directly in front of the CMOS imager is a plastic lens. and a truncated glass sphere mounted on a flexible membrane seals it on the opposite side. with the cylinder's outer diameter measuring 4 mm and its inner diameter 3 mm.

leading to a sharp image. The truncated sphere allows the focal length of the camera to be independent of wavelength—as with the human eye. In front of this plastic lens is the fixed aperture. a plastic lens at the aperture provides the main optical power. This property is important because it focuses all the wavelengths that make up the image at the same point. which.In the schematic drawing of the liquid lens [top]. In front of the truncated glass sphere is another plastic lens. 20 . The membrane allows the volume of the liquids to expand or contract depending on the temperature. The camera captures images with a CMOS sensor. provides the main optical power. while the glass lens below it makes the camera's focal length independent of wavelength. like the cornea of the eye.

55 mm . Because such a wide range requires special liquids. In contrast to the human eye.85 mm to 3. To do so. we added large amounts of salt or antifreeze to the water in our prototype camera lens to 21 . which is embedded in a temperaturecontrolled system. we varied the focal length from 2. we were able to focus on objects at distances anywhere from 2 centimeters up to infinity.By changing the voltage on the electrode of the liquid lens. The genie is 50 centimeters from the camera. For portable applications. the lens must work between -30 degrees C and +60 degrees C and survive temperatures between -40 degrees C and +85 degrees C. and the ladybug is 5 cm away. Two photos made with the liquid-lens camera show how the focal length can change to bring each of two objects into focus. our lens must operate over a range of temperatures.

one property for which this lens probably can't beat the human body. A lens that can be tilted and focused could let engineers design video cameras and binoculars that would compensate precisely for hand movement and other undesired motions. The lenses have other intriguing possibilities. offering the ability to image in directions that are at an angle to the lens axis. 22 . too. But we can vary the focus of this liquid lens—from one end of its range to the other— more than a million times without any decrease in performance. and that is lifetime. however. There is. Replacing the electrode that encircles the inner wall of the glass cylinder with multiple vertical electrodes and adjusting their voltages separately allows tilting of the interface between the liquids.lower the freezing point sufficiently without adversely affecting the image quality.

So we can expect that within the next year or two these Fluid Focus lenses will be enhancing the resolution of pictures taken with cell phone and PDA cameras. 23 . we might even far surpass it. we can envision future applications to replace a malfunctioning human eye lens. It is even possible to apply the liquid lens in high-quality optical recording systems like DVD recorders. which restricts the resolution of all lens systems. Because the liquid lens is based on materials that are.Conclusion It is sure that. biocompatible. With a zooming feature. and because refocusing the lens requires very little energy. the liquid lenses will overcome the problems associated with today’s camera phones. because its resolution can be controlled so it is not limited by lens imperfections but only by diffraction. at least in theory.

p.umd.pdf 24 .159  Applied physics Letters85 (2004). 1128  p.References  IEEE SPECTRUM December 2004/volume 41/number 12/International edition  The European Physical Journal E 3 (2000).