Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Focal length


Focal adjustment and zooming are universal features of cameras and advanced optical systems. Such tuning is usually performed longitudinally along the optical axis by mechanical or electrical control of focal length. However, the recent advent of ultrathin planar lenses based on metasurfaces (metalenses), which opens the door to future drastic miniaturization of mobile devices such as cell phones and wearable displays, mandates fundamentally different forms of tuning based on lateral motion rather than longitudinal motion. Theory shows that the strain field of a metalens substrate can be directly mapped into the outgoing optical wavefront to achieve large diffraction-limited focal length tuning and control of aberrations. We demonstrate electrically tunable large-area metalenses controlled by artificial muscles capable of simultaneously performing focal length tuning (>100%) as well as on-the-fly astigmatism and image shift corrections, which until now were only possible in electron optics. The device thickness is only 30 μm. Our results demonstrate the possibility of future optical microscopes that fully operate electronically, as well as compact optical systems that use the principles of adaptive optics to correct many orders of aberrations simultaneously.

Concepts: Optics, Microscope, Lens, Photography, Wavefront, Focal length, Photographic lens, Depth of field


We exploit the inherent dispersion in diffractive optics to demonstrate planar chromatic-aberration-corrected lenses. Specifically, we designed, fabricated and characterized cylindrical diffractive lenses that efficiently focus the entire visible band (450 nm to 700 nm) onto a single line. These devices are essentially pixelated, multi-level microstructures. Experiments confirm an average optical efficiency of 25% for a three-wavelength apochromatic lens whose chromatic focus shift is only 1.3 μm and 25 μm in the lateral and axial directions, respectively. Super-achromatic performance over the continuous visible band is also demonstrated with averaged lateral and axial focus shifts of only 1.65 μm and 73.6 μm, respectively. These lenses are easy to fabricate using single-step grayscale lithography and can be inexpensively replicated. Furthermore, these devices are thin (<3 μm), error tolerant, has low aspect ratio (<1:1) and offer polarization-insensitive focusing, all significant advantages compared to alternatives that rely on metasurfaces. Our design methodology offers high design flexibility in numerical aperture and focal length, and is readily extended to 2D.

Concepts: Optics, Magnification, Lens, Focus, Focal length, Photographic lens, F-number, Depth of field


Real-time optical diagnosis of colorectal polyps may lead to substantial time and cost savings and could potentially reduce complications associated with polypectomy. We prospectively assessed the utility of a novel narrow-band imaging (NBI) system with dual focus magnification (DF) in differentiating colorectal polyps in consecutive patients undergoing colonoscopy.

Concepts: Optics, Colorectal cancer, Ulcerative colitis, Colon, Colonoscopy, Colorectal polyp, Sigmoidoscopy, Focal length


Field of view and accommodative focus are two fundamental attributes of many imaging systems, ranging from human eyes to microscopes. Here, we present arrays of Fresnel zone plates fabricated on a flexible substrate, which allows for the adjustment of both the field of view and optical focus. Such zone plates function as compact and lightweight microlenses and are fabricated using silicon nanowires. Inspired by compound eyes in nature, these microlenses are designed to point along various angles in order to capture images, offering an exceptionally wide field of view. Moreover, by flexing the substrate, the lens position can be adjusted, thus achieving axial focus scanning. An array of microlenses on a flexible substrate was incorporated into an optical system to demonstrate high resolution imaging of objects located at different axial and angular positions. These silicon based microlenses could be integrated with electronics and have a wide range of potential applications, from medical imaging to surveillance.

Concepts: Diffraction, Optics, Eye, Lens, Focal length, Science of photography, Aperture, Fresnel diffraction


In arthropods, evolution has created a remarkably sophisticated class of imaging systems, with a wide-angle field of view, low aberrations, high acuity to motion and an infinite depth of field. A challenge in building digital cameras with the hemispherical, compound apposition layouts of arthropod eyes is that essential design requirements cannot be met with existing planar sensor technologies or conventional optics. Here we present materials, mechanics and integration schemes that afford scalable pathways to working, arthropod-inspired cameras with nearly full hemispherical shapes (about 160 degrees). Their surfaces are densely populated by imaging elements (artificial ommatidia), which are comparable in number (180) to those of the eyes of fire ants (Solenopsis fugax) and bark beetles (Hylastes nigrinus). The devices combine elastomeric compound optical elements with deformable arrays of thin silicon photodetectors into integrated sheets that can be elastically transformed from the planar geometries in which they are fabricated to hemispherical shapes for integration into apposition cameras. Our imaging results and quantitative ray-tracing-based simulations illustrate key features of operation. These general strategies seem to be applicable to other compound eye devices, such as those inspired by moths and lacewings (refracting superposition eyes), lobster and shrimp (reflecting superposition eyes), and houseflies (neural superposition eyes).

Concepts: Optics, Insect, Arthropod, Crustacean, Eye, Photography, Focal length, Field of view


Micro-scale optical components play a crucial role in imaging and display technology, biosensing, beam shaping, optical switching, wavefront-analysis, and device miniaturization. Herein, we demonstrate liquid compound micro-lenses with dynamically tunable focal lengths. We employ bi-phase emulsion droplets fabricated from immiscible hydrocarbon and fluorocarbon liquids to form responsive micro-lenses that can be reconfigured to focus or scatter light, form real or virtual images, and display variable focal lengths. Experimental demonstrations of dynamic refractive control are complemented by theoretical analysis and wave-optical modelling. Additionally, we provide evidence of the micro-lenses' functionality for two potential applications-integral micro-scale imaging devices and light field display technology-thereby demonstrating both the fundamental characteristics and the promising opportunities for fluid-based dynamic refractive micro-scale compound lenses.

Concepts: Optics, Light, Liquid, Surface tension, Demonstration, Lens, Rainbow, Focal length


Static photographs are currently the most often employed stimuli in research on social perception. The method of photograph acquisition might affect the depicted subject’s facial appearance and thus also the impression of such stimuli. An important factor influencing the resulting photograph is focal length, as different focal lengths produce various levels of image distortion. Here we tested whether different focal lengths (50, 85, 105 mm) affect depicted shape and perception of female and male faces. We collected three portrait photographs of 45 (22 females, 23 males) participants under standardized conditions and camera setting varying only in the focal length. Subsequently, the three photographs from each individual were shown on screen in a randomized order using a 3-alternative forced-choice paradigm. The images were judged for attractiveness, dominance, and femininity/masculinity by 369 raters (193 females, 176 males). Facial width-to-height ratio (fWHR) was measured from each photograph and overall facial shape was analysed employing geometric morphometric methods (GMM). Our results showed that photographs taken with 50 mm focal length were rated as significantly less feminine/masculine, attractive, and dominant compared to the images taken with longer focal lengths. Further, shorter focal lengths produced faces with smaller fWHR. Subsequent GMM revealed focal length significantly affected overall facial shape of the photographed subjects. Thus methodology of photograph acquisition, focal length in this case, can significantly affect results of studies using photographic stimuli perhaps due to different levels of perspective distortion that influence shapes and proportions of morphological traits.

Concepts: Male, Female, Optics, Length, Photography, Focal length, Photograph, Telephoto lens


Varifocal lenses, conventionally implemented by changing the axial distance between multiple optical elements, have a wide range of applications in imaging and optical beam scanning. The use of conventional bulky refractive elements makes these varifocal lenses large, slow, and limits their tunability. Metasurfaces, a new category of lithographically defined diffractive devices, enable thin and lightweight optical elements with precisely engineered phase profiles. Here we demonstrate tunable metasurface doublets, based on microelectromechanical systems (MEMS), with more than 60 diopters (about 4%) change in the optical power upon a 1-μm movement of one metasurface, and a scanning frequency that can potentially reach a few kHz. They can also be integrated with a third metasurface to make compact microscopes (~1 mm thick) with a large corrected field of view (~500 μm or 40 degrees) and fast axial scanning for 3D imaging. This paves the way towards MEMS-integrated metasurfaces as a platform for tunable and reconfigurable optics.

Concepts: Optics, Refractive index, Microscope, Frequency, Lens, Microelectromechanical systems, Focal length, Dioptre


Herein, we introduce catalysts that operate with chalcogen bonds. Compared to conventional hydrogen bonds, chalcogen bonds are similar in strength but more directional and hydrophobic, thus ideal for precision catalysis in apolar solvents. For the transfer hydrogenation of quinolines and imines, rate enhancements well beyond a factor of 1000 are obtained with chalcogen bonds. Better activities with deeper σ holes and wider bite angles, chloride inhibition and correlation with computed anion binding energies are consistent with operational chalcogen bonds. Comparable to classics, such as 2,2'-bipyrroles or 2,2'-bipyridines, dithieno[3,2-b;2',3'-d]thiophenes (DTTs), particularly their diimides, but also wide-angle cyclopentadithiazole-4-ones are identified as privileged motifs to stabilize transition states in the focal point of the σ holes on their two co-facial endocyclic sulfur atoms.

Concepts: Oxygen, Hydrogen, Catalysis, Transition state, Atom, Hydrogenation, Ion, Focal length


Women’s empowerment has become a focal point for development efforts worldwide and there is a need for an updated, critical assessment of the existing evidence on women’s empowerment and fertility. We conducted a literature review on studies examining the relationships between women’s empowerment and several fertility-related topics. Among the 60 studies identified for this review, the majority were conducted in South Asia (n = 35) and used household decision-making as a measure of empowerment (n = 37). Overall, the vast majority of studies found some positive associations between women’s empowerment and lower fertility, longer birth intervals, and lower rates of unintended pregnancy, but there was some variation in results. In many studies, results differed based on the measure of empowerment used, sociopolitical or gender environment, or sub-population studied. This article is one of the first evaluations of the literature assessing the relationships between women’s empowerment and fertility. We identify several key issues that merit further investigation.

Concepts: Pregnancy, Childbirth, Critical thinking, Evaluation, Politics, Psychometrics, Cultural studies, Focal length