Scientists made a microcamera out of methane, which could revolutionize imaging

The half-millimeter-wide device is intended primarily for examination of the interior of the human body.

Researchers at Princeton University and the University of Washington have created a miniaturized camera that is the size of a larger salt crystal, yet captures orders of magnitude sharper images than previous devices of similar size. The camera is based on metamaterial, the very tiny sub-units of which function as antennas and each has a unique shape. The millions of antennas are about the size of an HIV virus, as described by the researchers , and their proper placement and shape allow for high-quality, color images. Compared to images from other microcameras, the result is spectacularly sharper, rivaling that of normal-sized devices.

The methane is based on silicon nitride, a type of resistant ceramic that was developed in the 1960s primarily for use in turbines and to create a ceramic engine with its help. Although attempts have been made , mainly by Japanese companies, to build motors with silicon nitride-coated components, the all-ceramic plant has ultimately not been successful, but silicon nitride has become a useful raw material in another area, the chip-making process. Because the material is compatible with the manufacturing method of the chips, the microcamera can be manufactured simply and inexpensively as described by Princeton.

The quality of the imaging device's recordings is enhanced by machine learning algorithms that connect to antennas placed on the surface of the metamaterial, and the functions of these algorithms are planned to be extended to other applications in the future, such as object recognition or object classification. The most important applications of ultra-compact cameras may be endoscopy as well as brain imaging, but researchers later see quite new applications available: they think any device can be transformed into an imaging unit, so even the design of traditional telephone cameras can change significantly if mini-devices they will replace the current back camera.

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