Pocket-sized LED projector points to future of lenses

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.

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TOPICS: Hardware
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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.

Topic: Hardware

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10 comments
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  • RE: Pocket-sized LED projector points to future of lenses

    This is cool. Perhaps the next big thing to integrated into a cell phone.
    RRboy
    • RE: Pocket-sized LED projector points to future of lenses

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      meimeili
  • RE: Pocket-sized LED projector points to future of lenses

    So, when do we get this tech in 'scopes and binoculars?
    aureolin
  • RE: Pocket-sized LED projector points to future of lenses

    When do we get this tech as a Blackberry display whose coverglass and digitizer is also the self-view camera?

    Or how about a thing like a double-ended lollipop that's the disc-shaped see-through imager up top and a battery and memory down bottom with a Panaglide-style gimbal handle attaching in between?

    Oooh! When do we add a vibrating optic and get a 1024-slice 1024 x 1024-pixel multiplanar virtual image monitor that's also it's own gesture-sensing freespace touch interface?

    And then there's the corneal contact lenses with combined imager and projector, powered by a cellphone-sized high-voltage, high-frequency electric field generator worn against the skin that doubles as the duplex video signal link. Hmm, I wonder how much operating power a 12mm contact lens could intercept from a reasonably safe, reasonably low frequency field?

    I gotta write this stuff down. Bye!
    John_Turner
  • Pixel Switching?

    OK, I've read this article and the news release, but I can't see any mention of how those organic dye micro-pixels are switched on and off. Nor any mention of switching speed. I have a suspicion that this research unit only projects a static image; one that's essentially "printed" behind the micro-lenses. So, assuming some switching technology could be easily incorporated, the only advantage I see is some additional vibration and drop-height robustness vs. current LCOS and micro-array technologies. Sure it's "more compact" now, but add in that layer for pixel switching and I think that advantage will be much reduced.
    bradhansen@...
  • Good idea

    More in detail:

    http://www.technologyreview.com/computing/27127/?mod=chthumb
    Gerd23
  • Impressive

    nt
    klumper
  • Um, can't neglect physics

    You aren't going to get a bright display (viewable in sunlight) at any distance without heat. I know LEDs are efficient but photons are photons and it takes a lot of energy to make a bright display.

    Plus for light collection (cameras) the amount of light you collect depends on the area of the optics. You can't get around that. The ability to magnify an image is also dependent on the area.

    You don't get something for nothing.
    DevGuy_z
    • No neglecting

      @DevGuy_z <br><br>Point 1: Thats OK.<br><br>Point 2: <br>a) Area counts for brightness, thats right. Same for Projectors. <br>BUT: This projector only scales in area (unique feature) at constant thickness of some mm. Thats the news.<br><br>b) Image magnification is independent on area, its only dependent on focal length and projection distance.
      Gerd23
  • Where's my projector?.....

    ...uhhh...my dog ate it.
    james347