Fast Focusing Via An Oscillating Liquid Lens
Atif Abdul Majeed
The development of the liquid lens has been known for about a decade but
the fast focusing of water droplets by use of sound waves is the novel idea
presented by Hirsa. This technology is very small and lightweight as compared
with the existing plastic/gla
ss lens and it has a lower demand for power as
compared with other liquid lens products currently available on the market.
Hirsa has already proven its capabilities in camera applications and the
invention is already attracting attention by the cell ph
one camera industry; mainly
from Samsung. This is potentially the biggest application of the liquid lens
technology. However, there are two major disadvantages of this technology are the
loss of light through the liquid medium and the low resolution. At th
is point, the
technology needs to be fine tuned before commercialization should begin. Hirsa
has already acknowledged these disadvantages and expects to devise methods of
coping with them.
Introduction / Your Business Concept
an elevator pitch
ction of Business Concept and Problem It Addresses
The development of the liquid lens has been known for a while but the fast focusing of
water droplets by use of sound waves is the novel idea presented by Hirsa. This type of
technology would be applicable
to cell phone cameras
and other devices requiring a small
Two companies (Philips and Varioptic) have already developed products that use a liquid
Varioptic, a French company has invested on this technology for the past ten years.
As a result, it is able to manufacture liquid lens for commercial use. In collaboration with Seiko,
half million lens per month are being produced since September, 2008. Th
e main clients
presently for liquid lens are miniature camera phones, in which power consumption is a major
concern. The process involved in their technology requires between 10s to 100 volts. On the
other hand, Hirsa’s invention requires a couple of milli
Hirsa has already proven the invention’s camera
able to take 250 images per second, at varying focal lengths. He envisions a camera that could
instantly capture tens of images with different focal lengths,
and then use simple image
software to determine the
Strategic Drivers, Market Attractiveness and Potential Economic Value:
In short, the novelty of this technique lies in the creation of a high speed, adjustable lens
using a liqu
id lens and an oscillating device. Its main advantages over its existing competing
technologies are high speed and low power requirements.
Inexpensive as the lens is made up of a drop of liquid
More resistant to
accidental damage as there is nothing to break
High efficiency, Requires a few milliVolts
Very fast, claimed to be able to capture 100,000 frames per second
Key Features of Technology and
Cell phone companies and other imaging companies may value this technology. Samsung
has already demonstrated interest in this fast focusing liquid lens. This approach is exciting
compared to others because of its
focusing time through an inexpens
The competition would be primarily similar liquid lens products and glass/plastic lens.
However, Hirsa’s technology has a significant advantage since it focuses faster than glass/plastic
lens and requires less power than other liqu
id lens. The two major disadvantages of this
technology are the
loss of light
through the liquid medium and the
Body of Report
The claims of the IP and inventor for novelty and key attributes of the technology
Claims of Invention
and Key Attributes of the
Reasons for claims/attributes
being benefits and who would
value this benefit.
A key feature of this new technique is that the water
stays in constant
unchanging contact with the surface,
thus requiring less energy to manipulate.
Presently, cell phones consume a lot of
power while shooting a video or
clicking a picture. Most of the power is
consumed during focusing the object.
There is no need for high
voltages or other exotic
activation mechanisms. This means that this new lens
may be used and integrated into any number of
different applications and devices
, making many
Low voltage requirement is attributed
to the method of creat
through sound. Potential applications
including cell phones, web cams and
satellite imaging will be the ones the
The great benefit of this new device is that you can
create a new optical system from a liquid lens and a
, which along with its driving circuit can
be easily manufactured in a small and lightweight
Presently most of the cell phone
camera packaging is primitive and
creates a bulky look. The tiny camera
can fit in a few square mm area on a
ith small enough apertures and properly selected
able to create a lens that oscillates
as fast as 100,000 times per second
and still be able
to effectively capture those images.
Fast focusing lens is very important in
shooting different frames and then
integrating them to make a video or
panoramic picture. For example: in the
movie Matrix some of the shots were
shot at 108 frames/sec speed.
The liquid lens that captures 250
pictures per second
and requires considerably less energy to operate than
The contraction and expansion of the
liquid take considerably less energy
than moving a mechanical lens. Cell
phone user can greatly be benefited
The lens is simpler than earlier liquid lens designs that
use a combination of water (or some other fluid
capable of conducting electricity) and oil as well as an
electric charge. By using water, sound and surface
tension to adjust the focus
y enables the lens to be
packaged in a tiny space, takes only
fraction of energy needed in
competitive lens and simple
mechanism will benefit cell phone
users and manufacturers the most.
Table Two: Claims of the Invention and Who Should Value Such Claims
A Computer Science team would be necessary to develop software that’s more compatible with
this technology. The software that is currently being used is not specific to the technology.
Possible Applications of Fast Focusing Via Oscillating Liqu
Cell phone camera
third of the world population is expected to own a camera phone and the global camera
phone handset revenues are expected to grow over $120 Billion by 2011. Cameras in phone
presently have lower speed and relatively high c
ost. The oscillating liquid lens technology
can solve these problems though resolution in low in the present state however inventors are
working on it and are very optimistic about devising a solution to the problem.
integrated to laptops
WebCam markets at $1.2 billion in 2006 are anticipated to reach $6.2 billion by 2013.
100 listed Logitech, one of the leading providers of computer peripherals
globally, in its March 2008 annual report filed with SEC asserte
Our competitors for PC
Web cameras include Microsoft, Creative Labs and Philips. We are
and promotions on a worldwide basis, which have
impacted our revenues
” This oscillating liquid lens can provide great cost advantage to firms such as
Logitech to help them fend off competition.
Machine vision systems are programmed to perform narrowly defined tasks such as counting
objects on a conveyor,
reading serial numbers, and searching for surface defects.
Manufacturers favor machine vision systems for visual inspections that require
hour operation, and/or
repeatability of measurements
these tasks extend
roles traditionally occupied by human beings whose degree of failure is
classically high through distraction, illness and circumstance. The Machine Vision
use digital cameras, smart cameras and image processing software to perform inspections
lar to human beings however many times
lacks the speed
The oscillating liquid lens already provides solution to the camera speed
problem. Once the resolutions criterion is met, Machine Vision systems’ camera c
an be one
of the potential applications.
Real time satellite imaging
A report of Homeland Security Research Corporation 2007
2011 U.S. Homeland Security
(Government & Private) Market Outlook forecasts that the U.S. Homeland Security markets,
driven by t
he government and private sectors, will grow from about $24 Billion in 2006 to
$35 Billion by 2011.
The satellite imaging needs very high speed, high resolution and wide
focus cameras. The oscillating liquid lens technology provides high speed and when use
with other lenses in series can also achieve wide focus range. Again once low resolution
problem is solved; the oscillating liquid lens could tape this huge market.
The oscillating liquid lens cameras could be used in Automobiles,
photonic professional applications, high speed photography,
o air vehicles used for defense,
homeland security applications
and medical imaging
Possible Changes That Could Be
In terms of commercialization, some technical uncertainties can be identified. These include:
the water droplets may freeze. If an impurity is added to the water, this will
lower the freezing temperature. However, more research
has to be done to determine the
impurity to prevent altering the effects of the main liquid.
Limitations of the technology:
Stein Kuiper, the Philips researcher who developed the electrowetting technique, notes
that the researchers' ideas seem original,
but he sees drawbacks to the approach. Since the
lens is continuously moving, this means that "a significant amount of light is lost, as most
of the time the object is out of focus."
Additionally, these early results are not high resolution, notes Yuhwa
Lo, a professor of
electrical engineering at the University of California, San Diego. "Even the low
cameras have a pretty strict resolution requirement," he says. However, he says that at
this stage, the lens could be good for other optical application
s, such as simply focusing
beams of light instead of taking high
This information suggests that more work still needs to be done on the invention. Improvements
may be possible if experiments are carried out using different liquid mediums
which is the most effective.
Categorization and Prioritization of the Applications
Cell Phone Industry
Miniature Camera Phones
expected to hit the mark of 1 billion
WebCam markets at $1.2 billion in
2006 are anticipated to reach $6.2
billion by 2013.
and/or repeatability of
Real Time Satellite Imaging
Needs very high speed,
and wide focus cameras.
Table Three: Categorization and Prioritization of A
The cell phone camera is the number one priority because this industry is expected to have high
revenues in the new few years.
As previously noted, o
third of the world population is
expected to own a camera phone and the global camera phone handset revenues are expected to
grow over $120 Billion by 2011.
Samsung has already expressed its interest in Hirsa’s work. This technology aligns beautifully
with the vision of Samsung. SEM is hoping to make the cell phone’s camera equivalent to a
conventional digital camera.
An excerpt from the Samsung website:
Mechanics (SEM) is a specialist in camera modules for mobile phones and
company is now aggressively working to increase its world market share. SEM recently
completed a full lineup of advanced versions with high resolution, auto
focus, and optical zoom
options to accommodate various customer needs in a rapidly growing camera p
SEM is particularly skilled at designing and producing lenses and ISPs for assembly in modular
Thus, the company is able to proactively meet mobile phone manufacturers’
requirements for diverse designs with new functions.
ion / Conclusion
Description of results
The findings of this research paper showed that liquid lens technology has been around for at
least a decade. Hirsa’s invention has improved the original idea by reducing the power
consumption required for the funct
ioning the liquid lens technology. Hirsa’s discovered that
most energy efficient way of oscillating the water droplets that provide the fast focusing would
be via the use of sound waves through a tiny speaker. This concept significantly decreases the
factor since the liquid medium is mainly composed of water and the power demand is vastly
This Business Concept is a great idea and should be followed through because it
s more power
efficient and takes pictures faster. These features make it
applications which work at very low powers. However,
not until certain adjustments have been
made. These adjustments include the following setbacks:
eeds thorough testing and advancement before could be put into pr
arise because it would r
equire a shock proof anti
issues arise because the
liquid may evaporate at very high temperatures and
freeze at low temperatures.
facilities not available
The first three issues can be resolved through further experimental testing. Experimental testing
should also be used to devise a way of improving the resolution of the pictures. Hirsa has already
acknowledged these issues and is willing to cont
inue working on his invention in order to
improve its commercial quality.
The recommendations would be:
continue working on improving the
of his invention.
Commercialization setbacks need to be addressed
such as packaging techniques for
robustness and freezing and evaporation issues.
Ways to mass produce this technology needs to be addressed possibly through
collaboration with commercialization companies or other research institutes.
What Did We Learn:
From this research paper, we learned the following:
Inventions are very time consuming to complete and there’s always the possibility that revisions
have to be made.
Not all inventions can be commercialized due to costs and other reasons.
face many problems in terms of funding for both research and technological
Inventors do not possess the skills required for commercializing their technologies. Therefore,
they are faced with the issue of finding partners that are willing to h
andle commercializing tasks.
RPI has a vast amount of technologies that need some more attention from business people.
The incubator program has massive potential that is currently not being realized.
A call report of your interviews
What inspired you to work on this project
your main sources of funding in this project?
Did you find it hard to convince National Science Foundation abou
t the viability of this
What are the possible applications
What are the major technological issues that you are facing?
What is the resolution at which you have been able to take the pictures?
Do you think that at present state( resolution, quality, speed) this technology offers an edge
over competing tec
hnologies or does it offer to provide that edge in future?
What value does this novel technique add to the imaging industry?
Have the funding agencies shown interest in future funding as well?
Now that a new science has been discovered and technological questions need to be
addressed, how far do you want
to get involved in this project?
Have you started looking for industrial partnerships
What facilities does RPI offer if you want to go ahead w
ith this project within RPI. What
dditional resources you require?
What major challenges do you for
Which in your view are the competitor technologies for your technique?
How It W
nology demonstrate a harmonically driven liquid lens with an oscillating focal length,
which can capture any image plane in a given range by grabbing the image ‘in sync’ with the
oscillations. The liquid lens is constructed by coupling two droplets through
a cylindrical hole
with pinned contact lines against a hydrophobic substrate. The change in the curvature of the
droplets induces a change in focal length. The opposing curvature of droplets creates a spring
like force that makes the system a natural osci
llator, as it acts on its mass. By oscillating the lens,
the task of changing the focal length is effectively transformed from a mechanical manipulation
to the electronic timing of image capture, which can be achieved much more quickly. As image
ming is electronic, it can be achieved rapidly. However, the frequency response of the
lens is only limited by its resonant frequency. Theoretical predictions demonstrate that a faster
response is possible with smaller lenses. High
fidelity imaging is demo
nstrated at 100 Hz for a
scale liquid lens, which is driven at resonance and features pinned contact lines. At
the resonant frequency, the motion can be sustained with very little energy input. The electronic
control is much faster than mechanic
al manipulation of a static droplet.
Picture Showing: Droplets Oscillating Through Cylindrical Hole
escription of Traditional Mechanical Len
s and How They A
, converging or diverging the
beam. Traditionally lenses are made of
. It is the most important part
of the camera. Its main function in the camera is to focus/ redirect the incoming light in front of
the imaging film. Focal len
gth is the distance from the center of the lens to the principal focal
points. It measures how strongly a lens converges or diverges light. Typically focal length has
been adjusted manually moving the lens in the camera to and forth and then taking the pic
the desired focus, based upon the judgment of the photographer. Advances in technology have
also resulted in auto focusing technique.
is a feature of modern
allows them to obtain (and in some systems to also continuou
sly maintain) correct
subject, instead of requiring the operator to adjust focus manually. The speed and accuracy of
lens optical auto focusing is now often more precise than what can be achieved
manually with an ordinary viewfinder.
sensor autofocus cameras allow manual
selection of the active sensor, and many offer automatic selection of the sensor using
which attempt to discern the location of the subject. The data collected from autofocus sensors is
to control an
system that adjusts the focus of the optical system.
Picture Showing: Traditional Camera Lens
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