Most of today’s optical systems are still based on similar materials as used hundreds of years ago. For instance, zoom and autofocus objectives for cameras and microscopes consist of hard glass or plastic lenses, which need to be mechanically translated against each other. Comparing traditional man-made products with the optical system in the human eye it becomes apparent that the biological, deformable lens is superior to the artificial solution with respect to size, complexity and efficiency.
The main reason for the simplicity of the biological solution is the fact that the natural lens has a variable focal length. Optotune has developed and patented a technology that enables a series of adaptive optical elements imitating the principle of the human eye. These optical components are deformed by so-called artificial muscles (electroactive polymers, short EAP). This tunability provides an additional degree of freedom allowing significant simplification of many existing optical systems. For instance, our continuously adjustable focus tunable lens facilitates optical zoom and autofocus for cameras of any size with no moving parts. This minimizes the size, weight and power consumption of the objective while offering better robustness.