Pocket-sized LED projector points to future of lenses

Summary:Research scientists from Fraunhofer have created a small luminous cube made up of microscopically small nanostructured arrays of lenses that can record or project amazingly sharp images in brilliant colors.

Projectors of the future will have little in common with their bulky counterparts today. Not only will they be small and easy to use, but will also shine so brightly that the images appear sharp and clear, even in a sun-filled room.

Research scientists from Fraunhofer have created a small luminous cube made up of microscopically small nanostructured arrays of lenses that can record or project amazingly sharp images in brilliant colors.

According to a news release, the prototype of the new projector consists of an optical system just eleven millimeters square and three millimeters thick through which a powerful LED lamp shines.

"The special thing about the new projection technology is that the image is already integrated in the microoptics. The pixels measuring just a hundred nanometers or so are stored in a chromium layer under the lens array. Such a microarray has around 250 microlenses, and under each lens there is a microimage. When all of them are projected onto the wall together, a high-quality complete image is produced from an extremely small projector," explains Marcel Sieler, physicist at the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Optics and Precision Engineering IOF in Jena.

The technology has the potential to replace not only overhead and digital projectors but also cameras.

Dr. Michael Popall from the the Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research ISC says, "The commercial prospects for ultra-flat microoptical systems are excellent because they open up numerous new applications – like minicameras or miniprojectors."  He equates the leap in manufacturing quality achieved in recent months to the advance in television from the cathode ray tube to HDTV.

The team also developed a projector that is not much bigger than a box of matches that can project presentations, video clips and movies from a cell phone or laptop onto any wall – at home, in the office or out and about.

By using special developed materials and techniques for manufacturing micro-lens arrays, the resolution attainable is now almost as high as that of high-quality glass optics – but using significantly less material and space.  And the new material can be mass produced making it cost-effective,  claim the reseachers.

The pocket-sized projector will make its public appearance at the Nano Tech 2011 trade show in Tokyo from February 16 to 18.

Topics: Hardware

About

Christopher Jablonski is a freelance technology writer. Previously, he held research analyst positions in the IT industry and was the manager of marketing editorial at CBS Interactive. He's been contributing to ZDNet since 2003. Christopher received a bachelor's degree in business administration from the University of Illinois at U... Full Bio

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