Startup makes lenses using chipmaking techniques

February 08, 2021 // By Peter Clarke
Startup makes lenses using chipmaking techniques
Metalenz Inc. (Boston, Mass.), a spin-off from Harvard University, has raised $10 million in a Series A round of finance to develop flat lenses using semiconductor manufacturing.

Meta-optics uses planar surfaces consisting of sub-wavelength structures to manipulate light in a manner not possible with traditional refractive lenses. The technology exploits the interactions of light and matter at the nanometer scale. The result is flat thin meta-optics than can outperform a stack of refractive lenses and provide performance and cost advantages.

In terms of manufacturing efficiency meta-optics can be fabricated using step-and-repeat lithography on glass wafers in a similar manner to ICs.

One of the obvious early areas of application is to replace refractive lenses in mobile phone image sensor arrays and eliminate the smartphone "camera bump." Metalenz states that it intends to sell meta-optics into high volume applications including consumer electronics, mobile phone, healthcare and automotive.

Metalenz is a fabless company but uses standard semiconductor processes and its lenses are made in the same foundries that produce microelectronics and CMOS image sensors. Meta-optics can be produced in high volume with a single optical lithography mask and high yield.

"Our world-class foundry partners have been qualified to produce meta-optics for complex optical systems, and they have the production capacity to meet the demand requirements of our high-volume customers," the company states on its website but does not disclose what foundries it is working with.

Metalenz has a license to a portfolio of innovations in flat optics developed in the Harvard lab of Frederico Capasso. It has raised its series A funding from Intel Capital, 3M Ventures, Applied Ventures, and TDK Ventures, among others.

Metalenz was founded in 2017. Robert Devlin is CEO and Pawel Latawiec is the company's director of design and computation.

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