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  • Pact Zooms in on Lenses
Jul 2007
ORLANDO, July 23, 2007 -- The University of Central Florida (UCF) has signed a licensing agreement with Holochip Corp. for a portfolio of technologies that will allow zoom lenses, such as those used in digital cameras and camera phones, to be made dramatically smaller without compromising clarity.

Shin-Tson Wu, provost and professor of optics, and his research team at UCF's College of Optics and Photonics, have developed and patented technologies in the field of adaptive lenses, some of which closely replicate the working of the human eye. Holochip Corp., based in Albuquerque, N.M., and San Francisco, supplies such specialized lenses to manufacturers of camera phones, digital still cameras, medical and military equipment and other products. Under the agreement with the UCF Research Foundation, Holochip has exclusive worldwide rights to Wu's adaptive lens patents, including five US patents and numerous foreign applications.

Robert Batchko, CEO of Holochip Corp., said, "With the explosive growth of mobile imaging and camera phone sales approaching one billion units worldwide, there is a critical need for high-quality, inexpensive and environmentally responsible adaptive lens solutions."

Conventional zoom lenses rely on mechanically moving groups of glass or plastic lenses in order to adjust focus, magnification and field of view. Adaptive lenses, however, enable focal lengths to be changed witout mechanically changing the location of the lens.

Wu, who joined UCF in 2001 after 18 years at Hughes Research Laboratories, is known for his advances in LCD and liquid-crystal optics technology. He was one of the first researchers to recognize the need for adaptive lenses, and he has directed research that resulted in two distinct approaches. The first, liquid-crystal (LC) lenses, is based on the ability of liquid-crystal materials to alter their refractive index in the presence of an external electric field. With the appropriate selection of LC materials, substrates and device architecture, lenses can be created that adjust focal length upon an applied voltage.

The second approach, fluidic lenses, was inspired by principles of the human eye. The lens comprises a transparent optical fluid that is encapsulated within a flexible lens membrane and substrate. When the lens body is compressed, the shape of the flexible lens membrane is modified, which results in an adjustment of the focal length of the lens.

Since this approach provides a wide range of focal power with almost no optical loss, it can be used in compact camera modules, making it attractive for size-limited applications such as digital cameras and cell phones. Likewise, the LC lens offers the ability to control high-order aberrations that can lead to blurriness, making it useful in applications such as free-space optical communications, adaptive optics, corrective eyewear and cameras.

"This technology represents years of effort from Professor Wu and his research group at UCF," said Joe Giampapa, UCF's technology transfer director. "We believe that Professor Wu's research, together with Holochip's aggressive commercialization strategy and manufacturing capabilities, has the potential to create a major impact on camera phones and numerous other optical products and industries."

Holochip recently announced its flagship product, an adaptive polymer singlet lens, at the Conference on Lasers and Electro-optics (CLEO 2007) in Baltimore. The private company was founded in 2004 with financial backing from ITU Ventures, the New Mexico Angels and others.

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