Photonics Dictionary

Fresnel lens

A Fresnel lens is a type of optical lens that consists of a series of concentric grooves or steps carved into a flat, thin piece of transparent material, typically plastic or glass. This design allows the lens to achieve the same optical effect as a traditional curved lens but with a much thinner and lighter structure.

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Here are the key features and characteristics of Fresnel lenses:

Design: A Fresnel lens comprises a series of concentric rings or zones, each with a slightly different angle or curvature. These rings are designed to mimic the shape of a curved lens, with each ring contributing to the overall optical power of the lens.

Groove structure: The concentric grooves of a Fresnel lens alternate between areas where the material has been removed (to create the steps) and areas where the material remains intact. This groove structure reduces the amount of material needed, resulting in a thinner and lighter lens compared to a conventional lens with a similar optical power.

Light focusing: Fresnel lenses are primarily used to focus or collimate light. When light passes through a Fresnel lens, the grooves refract the light rays, causing them to converge or diverge depending on the lens's design. This allows Fresnel lenses to concentrate light onto a specific focal point or spread it over a wide area, depending on the application.


Optical projection: Fresnel lenses are commonly used in overhead projectors, magnifying glasses, and camera viewfinders to focus and magnify images.

Solar concentration: In solar energy systems, Fresnel lenses are used to concentrate sunlight onto photovoltaic cells or solar thermal collectors, increasing their efficiency.

Lighthouse beacons: Historically, Fresnel lenses were used in lighthouse beacons to magnify and project light over long distances, improving maritime navigation.

Stage lighting: Fresnel lenses are also used in theatrical lighting fixtures to control the direction and intensity of light beams on stage.

Vision correction: Some Fresnel lenses are used in vision correction devices such as eyeglass lenses for individuals with visual impairments.


Spot Fresnel lens: Concentrates light onto a focal point, commonly used in projectors and spotlights.

Linear Fresnel lens: Spreads light along a linear axis, used in applications such as magnifiers and light diffusers.

Cylindrical Fresnel lens: Similar to linear Fresnel lenses but with a cylindrical shape, used in applications requiring a cylindrical beam of light, such as stage lighting.


Lightweight and thin: Fresnel lenses are much lighter and thinner than traditional lenses with comparable optical properties, making them suitable for portable devices and applications where weight and space are constraints.

Cost-effective: The manufacturing process for Fresnel lenses is simpler and more cost-effective than traditional lens manufacturing methods.

Customizable: Fresnel lenses can be designed and fabricated to meet specific requirements for focal length, aperture size, and optical performance.

Overall, Fresnel lenses offer a versatile and efficient solution for a wide range of optical applications, providing advantages in terms of weight, cost, and performance.
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