Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Can You See Me Now?

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Can You See Me Now?

Article excerpt

Distorted cell phone photos and big, clunky telephoto lenses could be things of the past. University of Wisconsin--Madison Electrical and Computer Engineering associate professor Zhenqiang (Jack) Ma and colleagues have developed a flexible light-sensitive material that could revolutionize photography and other imaging technologies. Their research is published in the journal Applied Physics Letters.

When a device records an image, light passes through a lens and lands on a photodetector--a light-sensitive material like the sensor in a digital camera. However, a lens bends the light and curves the focusing plane. In a digital camera, the point where the focusing plane meets the flat sensor is in focus, but the image becomes more distorted the farther it is from that focus point.

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"If I take a picture with a cell phone camera, for example, there is distortion," says Ma. "The closer the subject is to the lens, the more distortion there is." That is why some photos can turn out looking like images in a funhouse mirror, with an enlarged nose or a hand as big as a head. High-end digital cameras correct this problem by incorporating multiple panes of glass to refract light and flatten the focusing plane. However, such lens systems--such as the mammoth telephoto lenses sports photographers use--are large, bulky, and expensive. …

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