Metalenz is a spin-out of the group of Federico Capasso at Harvard University, where the technology was invented. technology is expected to be ready for mass production by the end of this year.
ST will integrate Metalenz’s meta-surface optics technology into ST’s existing diffractive optics manufacturing process leveraging ST’s position in the Near-Infrared (NIR) optical sensing market.
Meta-surface optics are enabling a new breed of lens, which works on very different fundamental principles.
Instead of using bulkier curved surfaces, meta-surface optics combine multiple complex optical functions in a single flat layer.
This shrinks the size of each lens element while also cutting the number of lens elements needed, dramatically reducing the size of the optical lens, the number of components, the complexity of assembly, and the overall cost.
ST will use advanced lithographic masks to build tunable diffractive-wavefront layers on a meta-surface in a Semiconductor wafer fab.
Like silicon ICs, the flat meta-surface lenses are processed in a semiconductor clean room using the same manufacturing technology.
These nanostructures appropriately bend light rays to realize in a single layer the same functionality as a complex multi-element refractive lens system.
This technology is initially targeted at the fast-growing NIR market. NIR wavelengths are used in all the 3D sensing functions, such as face identification, autofocus assist, mini-LIDAR, and AR/VR depth mapping, that are becoming standard in today’s smartphone.
Given the benefits, optical lenses made in a semiconductor wafer fab could someday be as common as traditional refractive lenses.