Liquid lenses for camera phones

Apr 06 2005 - 09:41 AM ET | Camera
In the April 2005 issue of Wired, Sunny Bains writes about what could be the next major step forward for camera phones, liquid lenses. We previously mentioned that Philips was working on a liquid focused lens, but not much more has come of the story in the 13 months since. Inside the tiny optics a drop of water is suspended in an electrostatic field. By varying the voltage to this water, the optical properties of light going through it change. This works roughly the same way as the human eye. bq. Now, thanks to cell phone makers' insatiable desire for more attractive features in their handsets, the race is on to build usable liquid lenses. To make an electro­wetting lens powerful enough for real applications, Bruno Berge and his team at Varioptic in Lyon, France, combined salt water and an oil with the same density but different optical properties. The oil forms the lens; the water changes shape to control it. Meanwhile, Philips Research in the Netherlands is aiming its FluidFocus lenses at higher-end applications, like optical zooms for digital cameras.