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Tunable Liquid GRIN Microlens for Endoscopes and Labs-on-a-Chip

ID# 2009-3580
Schematic of the L-GRIN Lens

Technology Summary

The invention is an ultra-small tunable microlens which provides variable focusing and scanning within a limited space. The Liquid Gradient Refractive Index (L-GRIN) makes it possible to achieve both varying focal length and beam direction using a lens that is less than 1×1 mm2. The L-GRIN lens takes advantages of refractive index distribution in liquid to variably focus light, and therefore does not involve any complex mechanical or electrical parts in other tunable microlenses. With precise microfluidic manipulation, one can change not only the focal distance of the L-GRIN lens by adjusting the refractive index contrast, but also the direction of output light by shifting the optical axis.

Application & Market Utility

The system can be used in ultra-small diagnostic medical probes such as endoscopes or light focusing elements in lab-on-a-chip devices. The L-GRIN simplifies the lens tuning system using optofluidics, allowing for a smaller lens (1×1 mm2). L-GRIN also offers two degrees of freedom: adjustment in focal distance as well as direction of light output. Such a tunable microlens with two degrees of freedom enables unprecedented flexibility for on-chip manipulation of light.

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