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German researchers create zooming liquid lenses

Nilay Patel

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Liquid lenses have been kicking around as the Next Big Thing for a while, but outside of cameo appearances in a couple Samsung cellphones, they haven't exactly made waves in the market. That may be in part due to the fact that they can be made smaller and cheaper than conventional optics, but haven't been able to provide zoom or particularly high resolution. All that might be changing, however, as a Fraunhofer Institute team working in conjunction with French firm Varioptic has developed a system of 4 liquid lenses that can snap from 1 - 2.5x magnification at the touch of a button. The system isn't quite ready for primetime yet -- exposure times are still a little long, it can't zoom continuously, and the assembly is a little big at 29mm -- but the team is already considering solutions to those problems and is ready to go to the prototype stage. With all the interest from cellphone manufacturers, we'll bet they solve those problems right quick.

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