Camera miracle: Lens made of water (and oil)

Change is in the air, and I'm not talking about the still far-off season of spring. I'm talking about improvements in cameraphone optics, which have been fast and furious recently. Varioptic, a Chinese technology firm, has engineered a cameraphone lens that can be focused and zoomed not by mechanical parts, but by using oil and water.

The Artic 416 liquid lens takes advantage of a process known as electrowetting. When a voltage is applied, the water droplets flatten out while the oil expands, effectively changing the focus of the lens (which is dependent on the refractive properties of the junction between the two substances). Since there are no moving parts, Varioptic claims that the liquid lens is faster and can focus at a shorter distance than lenses of the mechanical variety.

Sunny, a Taiwanese firm recently used the lens in a 2-megapixel camera module. Not much has been said about the cost of this new lens or the quality of the 2-megapixel sensor from Sunny, but I hope that this isn't one of those ephemeral experiments that ends up "dripping" through the cracks.

Varioptic, via Übergizmo