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Metalenz Demonstrates Chip-Scale Polarization Imaging

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JOEL WILLIAMS, ASSOCIATE EDITOR
[email protected]

Meta-optics company Metalenz has unveiled a polarization-based optical technology called PolarEyes. The technology, which is not yet commercially available, takes the capabilities of bulky polarization imaging systems and shrinks it to a fraction of the size.

Polarization information can be used to discern properties such as a surface’s roughness, as well as details about its composition. It is used in machine vision applications to detect defects invisible to the human eye, such as stress, and to increase contrast to make such details more apparent.

“Polarization imaging is known to have a number of great potential applications including providing contrast in medical imaging and sensing objects that can’t be seen by standard cameras like black ice to help autonomous driving,” Metalenz co-founder and CEO Robert Devlin told Photonics Media. “We allow these devices to proliferate by shrinking their size and cost.”
Metalenz’s optics on chip. Courtesy of Metalenz.
Metalenz’s optics on chip. Courtesy of Metalenz.

Metalenz envisions the technology being used for privacy and security applications, particularly in smartphones. Facial recognition applications have proven effective in increasing security, though they are not without their vulnerabilities. High-quality masks and sometimes high-resolution prints of a person’s face are able to fool the technology and gain entry.

Other applications may offer a higher level of security, with time-of-flight imaging, though that technology has struggled during the pandemic to recognize users wearing masks.

In a demonstration, Devlin fooled a facial recognition algorithm using a printout of his face; putting on a standard surgical mask denied him access. The opposite happened when he turned on the PolarEyes device: The printout was denied entry, though the technology granted Devlin access while wearing the surgical mask. The technology discerned that the mask was a separate object from Devlin’s face — something that a point cloud is unable to do.

The technology has other uses, such as for automotive safety, where it can be used to detect black ice. In health care settings, it could be used for at-home dermatological exams.

“Perhaps the most exciting part, though, is once we get polarization imaging into everyone’s pocket, we have the potential to unlock unforeseen applications and markets — the same way all new applications and uses for cameras emerged once they were introduced into cellphones for the first time,” Devlin said.

In its current form, the technology is smaller than polarization imagers currently on the market. However, it is not quite small enough for integration into smartphones.

According to Devlin, it will take about six more months for Metalenz to get the technology to that size. He estimates that, at scale, the devices can be manufactured for just a few cents using existing semiconductor manufacturing processes.


Photonics Spectra
Apr 2022
GLOSSARY
polarization
With respect to light radiation, the restriction of the vibrations of the magnetic or electric field vector to a single plane. In a beam of electromagnetic radiation, the polarization direction is the direction of the electric field vector (with no distinction between positive and negative as the field oscillates back and forth). The polarization vector is always in the plane at right angles to the beam direction. Near some given stationary point in space the polarization direction in the beam...
polarimetry
The measurement of the rotation of the plane of polarization of radiant energy, usually through the use of a polarimeter.
BusinessopticslensespolarizationpolarimetryimagingMetalenzFederico CapassosmartphonecamerasPolarEyesmetalensmeta-opticsHarvard SEASRobert DevlinRob DevlinAmericasIndustry News

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