Since there are so many different fields of science, each making use of a very wide array of technologies in order to be able to move forward, a single breakthrough in one field can pave the way to a whole new set of inventions and discoveries. This is the way our technology is interconnected.
For an example grounded more in reality than in theory, a team of researchers from the Australian National University brought a nanotechnology revolution via the world’s thinnest lens. This is because the advances in technology that will be brought about by the breakthrough will be enormous.
World’s thinnest lens
Created by a team of Australian scientists led by Dr. Yuerui “Larry” Lu, the lens is generations apart from anything else created before it (technology-wise, not time-wise). More than two thousand times thinner than a human hair, the lens measures 6.3 nanometers in girth.
To help you get a clearer image of how novel the invention is, the previous holder of the world’s thinnest lens came at 50 nanometers thick. Compared to the current 6.3, it’s clear that different processes were used to create both devices. So, let’s see how our most recent record holder was brought into existence.
Made from a type of crystal called molybdenum disulphide, the crystal had a pretty complicated process involved in tis creation. First of all, the team used the most common household item to get the layer from which to make the lens – sticky tape.
So, using sticky tape to peel off a large layer of the crystal consisting of 9 atomic layers adding up to 6.3 nanometers in thickness, the team then used a focused ion beam to peel off one atom at a time until reaching the final dome-shaped lens.
It has a huge refractive index of 5.5, allowing the light to bounce back and forth several times in the lens before passing through. For comparison, the refractive index of diamond is 2.4, while that of water is 1.3.
Being such a huge breakthrough in nanotechnology, the lens can be used by multiple fields of science. It can be used in biodesigns, imitating the many composite eyes of an insect, and the process can now be used to develop even smaller and thinner lenses.
Of course, entertainment technology has to get a hold of the lens, with some companies actually managing to get their hands on a few samples and creating prototypes for several types of flexible displays, including computer and TV screens that can easily be rolled up. Still, the technology needs a little more research before becoming commercially available.
Image source: Wikimedia