Harvard University and Argonne National Laboratories Develop MEMS-based Superlenses

Combining super-surface lenses with MEMS technology can bring high-speed scanning and enhanced focusing capabilities to optical systems.

Super-surface-based planar lenses (super-lenses) integrated on MEMS scanners. The left picture is a scanning electron microscope picture. The right picture is an optical microscopy picture. The integration of super lenses on MEMS devices will help integrate the advantages of high-speed dynamic control and precise wavefront space control, creating a new model of light control

At present, the lens technology has made great progress in various fields, from digital cameras to high-bandwidth optical fibers, to laser interferometers and instruments such as the LIGO instrument. Now, a new lens technology has been developed using standard computer chip manufacturing technology, which will replace the complex multi-layer structures and geometric structures of traditional curved lenses.

Unlike traditional curved lenses, planar lenses based on super-surface optical nanomaterials are relatively lighter. When super-surface sub-wavelength nanostructures form a repeating pattern, they mimic the complex curvature that refracts light, but they are smaller and more light-collecting, while also reducing distortion. However, most of these nanostructured devices are static and have limited functionality.

According to the consulting report of Memes, super lens technology pioneers, Federico Capasso, an applied physicist at Harvard University, and Daniel Lopez, an early developer of MEMS technology, head of the nano-manufacturing and device group at Argonne National Laboratory, USA. A brainstorm has been added to add motion control capabilities to super lenses, such as rapid scanning and beam control capabilities, or new applications for super lenses will be opened up.

Capasso and Lopez have jointly developed a device that integrates mid-infrared spectroscopy super lenses on MEMS. They published the research results in this week's APL Photonics.

MEMS is a semiconductor technology that combines microelectronics and micromechanics and can be found in computers and smart phones, including mechanical microstructures such as sensors, actuators, and micro-gears. MEMS are now almost ubiquitous. From smart phones to automotive airbags, biosensors, and optics, MEMS can be manufactured using semiconductor technology in a typical computer chip.

Lopez said: "High-density integration of thousands of independently controlled MEMS lens devices on a silicon chip enables unprecedented light control and operation in the optical field."

The researchers fabricated a super-surface lens on a SOI silicon-on-insulator (2 μm top device layer, 200 nm buried oxide layer, and 600 μm substrate layer) using standard photolithographic techniques. Then, they aligned this flat lens with the center platform of a MEMS scanner (essentially a micro-mirror that deflects light for high-speed optical path length modulation) and fixed them together by depositing tiny platinum sheets, and finally the flat surface. The lens is mounted on a MEMS scanner.

"Our MEMS prototype device with integrated super-surface lens can change the rotation angle of the flat lens by electric control, and perform focus scanning within a few degrees," Lopez said. "In addition, this integrated super flat-surface lens MEMS The scanner's proof-of-concept product can also be extended to visible light and other spectral ranges, opening up a wider range of potential applications such as MEMS-based microscopic systems, holographic and projection imaging, LiDAR scanners, and laser printing."

In the case of electrostatic driving, its MEMS platform can control the lens movement angles in the two orthogonal axes so that the plane lens performs focus scanning in about 9 degrees in each direction. The researchers estimate that the focusing efficiency is about 85%.

"This kind of super lens can use semiconductor technology to achieve large-scale production in the future, or will replace the traditional lens in a wide range of applications," added Capasso.

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