Dr Lu (left) with student Jiong Yang, with the lens on screen. Image Stuard Hay, ANU
(March 11, 2016) Scientists have created the world's thinnest lens, one two-thousandth the thickness of a human hair, opening the door to flexible computer displays and a revolution in miniature cameras.
Lead researcher Dr Yuerui (Larry) Lu from ANU Research School of Engineering said the discovery hinged on the remarkable potential of the molybdenum disulphide crystal.
"This type of material is the perfect candidate for future flexible displays," said Dr Lu, leader of Nano-Electro-Mechanical System (NEMS) Laboratory in the ANU Research School of Engineering.
"We will also be able to use arrays of micro lenses to mimic the compound eyes of insects."
The 6.3-nanometre lens outshines previous ultra-thin flat lenses, made from 50-nanometre thick gold nano-bar arrays, known as a metamaterial.
"Molybdenum disulphide is an amazing crystal," said Dr Lu
"It survives at high temperatures, is a lubricant, a good semiconductor and can emit photons too.
"The capability of manipulating the flow of light in atomic scale opens an exciting avenue towards unprecedented miniaturisation of optical components and the integration of advanced optical functionalities."
image: Stuard Hay, ANU
Molybdenum disulphide is in a class of materials known as chalcogenide glasses that have flexible electronic characteristics that have made them popular for high-technology components.
Dr Lu's team created their lens from a crystal 6.3-nanometres thick - 9 atomic layers - which they had peeled off a larger piece of molybdenum disulphide with sticky tape.
They then created a 10-micron radius lens, using a focussed ion beam to shave off the layers atom by atom, until they had the dome shape of the lens.