Compact, tunable lens using compliant transparent electrodes

Conventional lenses have specific focal lengths and aberration characteristics due to their shape and comprising material. For adaptable systems, such as a camera that can focus at objects at different distances, often mechanical systems area used to change the distance between lenses or the shape of the lenses themselves. Unlike these multipart systems, this innovation uses the lens itself as a multifunctional material that responds to electric fields. In doing so, the system can undergo large actuation strain, enable spatial control of deformation within the optical path, and provide high numerical aperture devices. Furthermore, it can do this with a compact design and simple construction for both optical and acoustic systems.

The underlying technology uses a highly transparent dielectric elastomer created from a network of single walled carbon nanotubes and it is compatible with commercial elastomers such as silicone rubber, VHB acrylate, and polyurethanes. The design provides the flexibility to be configured as a single lens or as an array of lenses, for lenses with diameters above 50 microns. Key characteristics that can be controlled include focal length, aberration, spatial optical axis, speckle patterns, and mechanical properties. In addition to imaging, light manipulation, illumination, and acoustic applications, due to the compact form factor, this invention is particularly well suited for challenging medical applications such as dynamic lenses required in endoscopy.

U.S. Patent(s) Issued: WO/2014/077931