PRESS RELEASE: Metalenz partners with STMicroelectronics to develop manufacturing processes

Metalenz Inc. partners with global semiconductor leader STMicroelectronics to develop manufacturing processes for Metalenz’s meta-optics technology for next-generation smartphones, consumer devices, healthcare, and automotive applications.

The technology developed by Metalenz is a perfect complement to ST’s advanced capabilities. Combining semiconductor manufacturing and optics, ST will use advanced lithographic masks to build tunable diffractive-wavefront layers on a meta-surface in a semiconductor wafer fab. Like silicon ICs, the flat meta-surface lenses are processed in a semiconductor cleanroom using the same manufacturing technology. The lenses will feature nanostructures one-thousandth the width of a human hair. These nanostructures appropriately bend light rays to realize in a single layer the same functionality as a complex multi-element refractive lens system.

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PRESS RELEASE – Metalenz Launches Orion, the World’s Simplest, Most Compact Dot Pattern Projector.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Carlos Calvo, VP of Product
Phone 857-301-8510
media@metalenz.com

 

Metalenz Launches Orion™, the World’s Simplest, Most Compact Dot Pattern Projector.

  • Metalenz’s simpler dot projectors enable 3D sensing to proliferate to all smartphones.
  • Metalenz has secured high volume manufacturing partnerships and has customers in the queue, with broad availability of evaluation kits in June.

[Boston, MA, May 2021]: Metalenz Inc., the pioneer in metasurface design and commercialization, today unveiled the OrionTM product family, the world’s simplest, high performance dot projectors. Current dot projectors, used in mobile devices for features like facial recognition and 3D sensing, have been a logistic and aesthetic headache for cell phone manufacturers—eating up valuable space, interrupting the phone display and requiring complex assembly of many different components. Using its patented metasurface technology, the Orion product family is a simplified and more efficient solution that is bound to displace refractive lens and diffractive element optical stacks with a single meta-optic.

“If you look at dot projectors in cell phones today, these are some of the most complex and bulky modules in the phone.” said Robert Devlin, co-founder/CEO, Metalenz. “The size, complexity, and cost has limited 3D sensing and face unlock to just the top tier cell phone companies. What Metalenz provides with our meta-optic technology is the simplest possible approach. We’re able to improve the system level performance while replacing as many as six optics in the current modules with a single meta-optic. This results in a size reduction in all three dimensions. Ultimately, the Orion product line will enable under-display sensing and allow much broader adoption of 3D sensing and face unlock features across all cell phones.”

Metalenz’s patented Orion product line is set to replace current 3D optical configurations in smartphones because of its advantages:

  • Simpler – replaces as many as six optical parts in an illumination system (refractive lenses, mirrors, DOE) with a single meta-optic piece.
  • Smaller – collapses form factor to fit in the tightest of spaces, hiding under screens or in the tiniest of nooks in a phone.
  • Brighter – light projected to where it is needed the most for high resolution constellations or out far out distances, balancing performance and power savings.
  • Better – architecture drastically lowers assembly complexity and cost to drive more depth sensing sockets for user authentication and AR.

The advantages of Orion products extend to both structured light (SL) and time of flight (ToF) 3D depth sensing solutions. The meta-optics improve system level signal-to-noise-ratio, resulting in better performance in sunlight, higher resolution, longer sensing distances, and improved battery life.

The Orion 50TM, the highest dot density product in the family, boasts more than 50,000 projected dots with an optical module height thin enough for the most advanced mobile devices. It radically simplifies what has traditionally been a six element stack (four refractive lenses, mirrors to achieve a folded optical path, and a DOE) into one single meta-optic system.  Orion 50 means component reduction, tiny size, performance we are accustomed to, and dramatically easier manufacturing. This simplification will enable more phone makers to put sensors and cameras beneath a device’s glass display and ultimately in the palms of our hands.

On the flip side, smartphones with world-facing (a.k.a the back of the phone) 3D depth sensing cameras deliver professional looking photography effects like bokeh and are enabling emerging AR applications.  Depth sensing cameras rely on active illumination of the scene with lasers and capture of reflected light with specialized ToF sensors.  Illuminating brighter to cover greater distances and flooding the scene for long periods of time can be a major drain on a phone’s battery life. These are the antithesis of bringing forth more immersive and encompassing AR applications.

Orion 2.5TM projects 2,500 high intensity dots into the scene so more light will travel the distance back to the image sensor.  High resolution depth information is made possible at distances of 10 meters or more.  Orion 2.5 conserves power and enables a new arena for AR in smartphones, head mounted displays, and consumer electronics.  It stays true to the Orion family roots – simpler, brighter, better optics – while doing away with system complexity and driving down the barriers for integration and board adoption.

With its recent flat-lens technological achievements, manufacturing partnerships in place, and growing customer list, Metalenz is poised to revolutionize sensing in smartphones and consumer electronics.

Evaluation kits of Orion will be available in late June. Contact sales@metalenz.com for more information.

About Metalenz

Metalenz, founded in 2016 is the first company to commercialize meta-optics.  The company is backed by leading investors including 3M, Applied Ventures LLC, Intel Capital, M Ventures and TDK Ventures. The company has the exclusive worldwide license to the portfolio of foundational intellectual property relating to metasurfaces developed in the Capasso Lab at Harvard University and has more than 20 patents on innovations that simplify and improve optical devices across multiple markets. Recently featured in TechCrunch, Wired, The New York Times, and Forbes. For more information, please visit https://www.metalenz.com/

 

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These Materials Could Make Science Fiction a Reality

from The New York Times

Metamaterials, which could improve smartphones and change how we use other technology, allow scientists to control light waves in new ways.

Imagine operating a computer by moving your hands in the air as Tony Stark does in “Iron Man.” Or using a smartphone to magnify an object as does the device that Harrison Ford’s character uses in “Blade Runner.” Or a next-generation video meeting where augmented reality glasses make it possible to view 3-D avatars. Or a generation of autonomous vehicles capable of driving safely in city traffic.

These advances and a host of others on the horizon could happen because of metamaterials, making it possible to control beams of light with the same ease that computer chips control electricity.

The term metamaterials refers to a broad class of manufactured materials composed of structures that are finer than the wavelength of visible light, radio waves and other types of electromagnetic radiation. Together, they are now giving engineers extraordinary control in designing new types of ultracheap sensors that range from a telescope lens to an infrared thermometer.

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Smaller and Better Smartphone Cameras Are On the Way

from BBC News

“Today’s smartphone cameras can make a better image than cameras I paid NZ$10,000 ($7,110; £5,165) for only 20 years ago,” says Tom Ang, an Auckland-based professional photographer and author of more than 30 books on digital photography.

The cameras embedded in our smartphones have become so good, many of those too young to remember anything different would scoff at the idea of carting around a separate camera.

While Mr Ang is still fond of his high-end DSLR cameras, most of us rely on smartphone photos and videos to capture our memorable events and duckface selfies.

And there is plenty of room for improvement. Most smartphones use a stacked system of lenses, which adds both weight and bulk, and ruins a phone’s sleek design on its backside.

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Can Silicon Nanostructures Knock Plastic Lenses Out of Cell Phone Cameras?

from IEEE Spectrum

Startup Metalenz says its nanostructures do a better job of guiding light to image sensors than curved plastic lenses.

It’s been a good decade or so for the makers of plastic lenses. In recent years, smartphone manufactures have been adding camera modules, going from one to two to five or more. And each of those camera modules contains several plastic lenses. Over the years, these lenses have changed little, though image processing software has improved a lot, merging images from multiple camera modules into one high quality picture and enabling selective focus and other features.

The glory days of the plastic camera lens, however, may be drawing to a close. At least that’s the hope of Metalenz, a Boston-area startup that officially took its wraps off today.

The company aims to replace plastic lenses with waveguides built out of silicon nanostructures using traditional semiconductor processing techniques. Metalenz’s technology grew out of work done at Harvard’s John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. Harvard is not the only university laboratory that has investigated metastructures for use as optical wave guides — Columbia, the University of Michigan, and King Abdulla University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia are among the institutions with teams researching the technology. However, Harvard’s team, led by applied physics professor Federico Capasso, was the first group to be able to focus the full spectrum of visible light using a metalens.

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A New Lens Technology Is Primed to Jump-Start Phone Cameras

from Wired.com

The optics in your smartphone have been pretty much the same for more than a decade. That’s about to change.

The camera on the first iPhone way back in 2007 was a mere 2 megapixels. And it only had a rear camera; there wasn’t even a front-facing selfie shooter. Today, you’ll find multiple cameras on the front and back of phones — some of them with sensors as large as 108 megapixels, like the biggest camera on Samsung’s Galaxy S21 Ultra.

But while the sensor size and megapixel counts of smartphone cameras have increased considerably in the past decade — not to mention improvements in computational photography software — the lenses that help capture photos remain fundamentally unchanged.

A new company called Metalenz, which emerges from stealth mode today, is looking to disrupt smartphone cameras with a single, flat lens system that utilizes a technology called optical metasurfaces. A camera built around this new lens tech can produce an image of the same if not better quality as traditional lenses, collect more light for brighter photos, and can even enable new forms of sensing in phones, all while taking up less space.

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New Lens Tech Poised to Eliminate the Smartphone “Camera Bump”

from PetaPixel

Metalenz, a startup that has just emerged from “stealth mode” today, has revealed its vision for the future of smartphone lenses, a segment of the market that has not seen much change in the last ten plus years.

While sensor technology continues to see notable changes and improvements over time, the technology of lenses has remained rather stagnant, and fundamentally unchanged since the iPhone launched in 2007.

Metalenz wants to change that with a “flat lens system” that it says utilizes a new technology called optical metasurfaces. The claim is that camera systems built around this new technology can produce an image of the same, if not better, quality as traditional lenses while also collecting more light. It can do all this while also taking up less space.

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Metalens raises $10m for 3D sensors that are 1,000 times smaller than a hair

from VentureBeat

Metalenz has raised $10 million to create 3D sensors on a chip with structures that are 1,000 times smaller than a human hair.

The new investment allows Metalenz to scale production and accelerate the development of miniature optics on a chip technology and its new lens that will power the next generation of sensors for use in smartphones and other consumer, health care, and automotive applications. Among the possible fruits of this tech: lenses that enable brighter, higher-quality infrared pictures than conventional lenses.

For consumers, the higher-quality lenses mean more powerful phone capabilities that can help them snap more professional-looking pictures — even in the most challenging environments — while promoting longer battery life. Right now, smartphone makers such as Apple are including multiple cameras in smartphones to render 3D imagery.

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Cheap Lidar For All? Startup Prints 10,000 Lenses At A Time On Silicon Wafers

from Forbes.com

A new startup out of Harvard Labs has invented a way to print camera lenses 10,000 at a time just like computer chips in the same semiconductor foundries that make chips for computers and phones. They’re 100X thinner than standard smartphone camera lenses and simpler and cheaper to make. Plus, they capture the full electromagnetic spectrum — not just visible light — and have excellent 3D-sensing capabilities that could bring Lidar-based dimensional sensing functionality to all phones. Currently, that’s only available on high-end phones like Apple’s iPhone 12.

Essentially, this is taking camera lens production out of the Stone Age.

And making it up to 50% less expensive.

The company is Metalenz, the potential of its technology is a major game changer in multiple industries, not just smartphones, and the Harvard Labs startup has just raised $10 million from Intel, 3M, and venture capital firms.

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Metalenz Puts $10M Series A Into Focus With Investment From Intel and 3M

from Crunchbase News

Metalenz, a developer of meta-optic technologies for new lenses, has secured a $10 million Series A as the company looks to exit stealth and have its chips deployed in smartphones and mobile devices later this year.

The round included investments from 3M Ventures, Applied Ventures LLC, Intel Capital, M Ventures and TDK Ventures, along with Tsingyuan Ventures and Braemar Energy Ventures. The company now has raised $15.7 million since being founded in 2017 after being spun out of Harvard University.

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Matelenz promises to make your camera bump smaller

One thing we’ve all noticed as the years go on is how huge camera bumps are nowadays. Although companies are coming up with clever ways to make them seem smaller (such as Samsung’s sorta-side-mounted modules on the Galaxy S21 series), they will always be limited by physics.

Without getting too technical, the reason camera bumps are so thick is that multiple lenses need to be stacked on top of one another to create the high-quality images we expect from phones. Those stacked lenses necessitate a protruding bump from the back of the phone. The only way to reduce the bump would be to remove lenses and reduce image quality.

A new company called Metalenz has figured out a way around this, though. The just-announced firm told Wired that it has designed a flat lens made up of tiny nanostructures. These nanostructures bend light independently, removing the need for stacked lenses.

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This startup prints camera lenses like computer chips, 5000 at a time, with full EM spectrum sensin‪g‬

A new startup out of Harvard Labs has invented a way to print camera lenses 5,000 at a time just like computer chips, and in the same semiconductor foundries that make our computer’s CPUs. They’re 100X thinner than standard smartphone camera lenses, are simpler and cheaper to make, sense the full electromagnetic spectrum — not just visible light — and have excellent 3D-sensing capabilities that could bring Lidar-based dimensional sensing functionality that’s currently only on high-end phones like the iPhone 12 to smartphones across the price spectrum.

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World Economic Forum: Top 10 Emerging Technologies 2019

Tiny Lenses for Miniature Devices

Thin, flat metalenses could replace bulky glass for manipulating light

As phones, computers and other electronics have grown ever smaller, their optical components have stubbornly refused to shrink. Notably, it is hard to make tiny lenses with traditional glass-cutting and glass-curving techniques, and the elements in a glass lens often need to be stacked to focus light properly. Engineers have recently figured out much of the physics behind much smaller, lighter alternatives known as metalenses. These lenses could allow for greater miniaturization of microscopes and other laboratory tools, as well as of consumer products, such as cameras, virtual reality headsets and optical sensors for the internet of things. And they could enhance the functionality of optical fibres.

A metalens consists of a flat surface, thinner than a micron, that is covered with an array of nanoscale objects, such as jutting pillars or drilled holes. As incident light hits these elements, many of its properties change – including its polarization, intensity, phase and direction of propagation. Researchers can precisely position the nanoscale objects to ensure that the light that exits the metalens has selected characteristics. What is more, metalenses are so thin that several can sit on top of one another without a significant increase in size. Researchers have demonstrated optical devices such as spectrometers and polarimeters made from
stacks of these flat surfaces.

In a major breakthrough in 2018, researchers solved a problem called chromatic aberration. As white light passes through a typical lens, rays of its varied wavelengths get deflected at different angles and thus focus at different distances from the lens. To fix this effect, engineers today need to layer lenses in a finicky alignment. Now, a single metalens can focus all the wavelengths of white light on to the same spot. Beyond creating this “achromatic” metalens, scientists have developed metalenses that correct other aberrations, such as coma and astigmatism, which cause image distortion and blurring.

In addition to reducing size, metalenses should ultimately lower the cost of optical components because the diminutive lenses can be manufactured with the same equipment already used in the semiconductor industry. This feature raises the alluring prospect of fabricating, say, a tiny light sensor’s optical and electronic components side by side.

For now, however, expenses are still high because it is difficult to precisely place nanoscale elements on a centimetre-scale chip. Other limitations also need addressing. So far, metalenses do not transmit light as efficiently as traditional lenses – an important capability for such applications as full-colour imaging. In addition, they are too small to capture a large quantity of light, which means that, for now, they are not suited to snapping high-quality photographs.

Nevertheless, in the next few years the tiny lenses will probably make their way into smaller, easier-to-manufacture sensors, diagnostic tools such as endoscopic imaging devices, and optical fibres. Those potential applications are appealing enough to have attracted research support from government agencies and such companies as Samsung and Google. At least one start-up, Metalenz, expects to bring metalenses to market within the next few years.

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LASER 2017: Capasso gives illuminating metasurface plenary

As SPIE launches new Digital Optical Technologies conference series and hosts AR/VR demonstrations at LASER

The new SPIE Digital Optical Technologies conference — highlighted by the opportunity for a hands-on demonstration of advanced augmented, virtual, and mixed reality headsets — joins the established SPIE Optical Metrology symposium coincident with Laser World of Photonics in Munich.

The conferences run through until 29 June at the ICC, adjacent to the Messe. The AR/VR demonstrations are taking place at the H4 Hotel, just across the lake outside of the Munich Messe.

Federico Capasso, the Robert Wallace Professor of Applied Physics at Harvard University and the inventor in 1994 of the quantum cascade laser, today presented the SPIE plenary talk on metasurface diffractive optics.

Read the full article (optics.org)

Phone Cameras Could Get as Sharp as DSLRs, by Bending Laws of Nature

A new grain-of-sand-sized lens could one day compete with those enormous DSLR lenses to create sharp pictures.

A group of scientists at Harvard University debuted their new “metalens” in Science last week, and hope it will have applications in all sorts of imaging, from photography to other optics like microscopes and telescopes. These lenses aren’t just smaller, measuring in at just 2 millimeters in diameter, but potentially much cheaper than the lenses the industry uses today.

“We wanted to replace bulky optics,” Mohammadreza Khorasaninejad, first author on the study, told Popular Science. “We can reduce the cost to 2 or 3 orders of magnitude.”

This could drop the price of top-tier lenses from $5000 to potentially $5 dollars per lens.

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