The best phone camera lenses could be about to get dramatically thinner

Whether you’re an iPhone user, Huawei super-fan, Samsung phone devotee or OnePlus worshipper, everyone can agree that camera bumps – protrusions in a phone’s casing, where the camera is housed – are annoying. They get damaged easily, stop you lying your phone flat on a table, and feel irritating when you’re holding your phone in landscape. However, a solution is in hand.

This solution comes from the University of Utah, in Salt Lake City, where a group of researchers have just invented smartphone camera lenses that are just a few micrometers thick. If you don’t know what a micrometer is, maybe this will give you an idea: it’s a millionth of a meter, meaning these lenses are thousands of times thinner than those currently in use in flagship smartphones – and twenty times thinner than a human hair.

This news was published in a scientific paper titled “Broadband lightweight flat lenses for long-wave infrared imaging“, which describes a truly tiny optical lens. It can fulfill all the functions of a thicker smartphone lens by effectively creating numerous tiny structures that bounce light to the sensor, working together to act as a lens.

A super-thin smartphone lens sounds great, but how will this actually transform your camera experience? We spoke to Rajesh Menon, an electrical and computer engineering associate professor at the University of Utah, to better understand these little lenses.

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Understanding super-thin smartphone lenses