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Researchers in Quebec have developed a new lens which is extremely flat and five times thinner than a sheet of paper, that they claim will revolutionise photography. With the new technology, even the smallest of cameras would be able to take perfectly clear pictures, and even get close up to their subjects with none of the distortion associated with digital zoom.

Tigran Galstian, an engineer and physicist at Laval University, says that the research could drastically improve the quality of pictures taken by small cameras, like those in cell phones, according to a Canadian Press report.

The researchers added a small amount of a light-sensitive monomer to the liquid crystal in a conventional electro-optic cell. When the liquid crystal is stimulated by a laser, the monomers are stimulated to form a polymer network, with a density proportional to the amount of light falling on the surface. This also affects the orientation of the liquid crystals, and the refractive index of the cell.

By precisely controlling the laser profile, the researchers are able to make the cell act like a lens. Varying the voltage across the lens, the researchers could change the focal length of the lens, because this alters its refractive index. By increasing the applied voltage from 1.5 to 4.5 volts, the team was able to vary the focal length by a factor of five.

Galstian has patented his invention, and is now looking for industry support to develop the technology into a working product. He told Canadian Press: "Right now we're guessing what industry needs and we'd love to work with them on what they really want."

Galstian and his team believe the technology could be decent competition to the liquid lens research currently underway in France. ®

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