March 1, 2024

Spiral-shaped lens provides clear vision at various distances and lighting conditions

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Researchers have developed a new type of lens that uses a spiral-shaped surface to maintain clear focus at different distances in various light conditions. Credit: Laurent Galinier

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Researchers have developed a new type of lens that uses a spiral-shaped surface to maintain clear focus at different distances in various light conditions. Credit: Laurent Galinier

Researchers have developed a spiral-shaped lens that maintains clear focus at different distances in various light conditions. The new lens works in a similar way to progressive lenses used for vision correction, but without the distortions normally seen in these lenses. It could help advance contact lens technologies, intraocular implants for cataracts and miniaturized imaging systems.

“Unlike existing multifocal lenses, our lens works well under a wide range of light conditions and maintains multifocality regardless of pupil size,” said Bertrand Simon of the Laboratory for Photonics, Numericals and Nanosciences (LP2N), a research facility. joint research between the Institute d’Optique Graduate School, the University of Bordeaux and the CNRS in France.

“For potential implant users or people with age-related farsightedness, it could provide consistently clear vision, potentially revolutionizing ophthalmology.”

In Optics the researchers describe the new lens, which they call a spiral diopter. Its spiral features are arranged to create many separate focus points – as if you had multiple lenses in one. This makes it possible to see clearly at various distances.


The spiral lens (bottom) extends the sharpness zone beyond what is possible with a classic lens (top). Credit: Laurent Galinier

“In addition to ophthalmic applications, the simple design of this lens could greatly benefit compact imaging systems,” said Simon.

“This would simplify the design and function of these systems, while also offering a way to image at various depths without additional optical elements. These features, along with the multifocal properties of the lens, offer a powerful tool for depth perception in applications advanced imaging.”

Creating a vortex of light

The inspiration for the spiral lens design came when the paper’s first author, Laurent Galinier of SPIRAL SAS in France, was analyzing the optical properties of severe corneal deformations in patients. This led him to conceptualize a lens with a unique spiral design that makes light spin, like water running down a drain. This phenomenon, known as optical vortex, creates multiple sharp focus points, which allow the lens to provide sharp focus at different distances.

“Creating an optical vortex often requires multiple optical components,” Galinier said. “Our lens, however, incorporates the elements necessary to create an optical vortex directly on its surface. Creating optical vortices is a thriving field of research, but our method simplifies the process, marking a significant advance in the field of optics.”


The new lens could be used in contact (imaging) lenses, in intraocular implants for cataracts, and to create new types of miniaturized imaging systems. Credit: Laurent Galinier

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The new lens could be used in contact (imaging) lenses, in intraocular implants for cataracts, and to create new types of miniaturized imaging systems. Credit: Laurent Galinier

Researchers created the lens using advanced digital machining to shape the unique spiral design with high precision. They then validated the lens by using it to create an image of a digital “E,” much like those used on an optometrist’s illuminated sign. The authors observed that image quality remained satisfactory regardless of the aperture size used.

They also discovered that optical vortices could be modified by adjusting the topological charge, which is essentially the number of windings around the optical axis. Volunteers who wore the lenses also reported visible improvements in visual acuity at various distances and lighting conditions.

Crossing disciplines

To realize the new lens, it was necessary to combine the intuitively created design with advanced manufacturing techniques through interdisciplinary collaboration.

“The spiral diopter lens, first conceived by an intuitive inventor, was scientifically substantiated through an intense research collaboration with optical scientists,” said Simon. “The result was an innovative approach to creating advanced lenses.”

Researchers are now working to better understand the unique optical vortices produced by its lenses. They also plan to conduct systematic testing of the lens’ ability to correct vision in people to comprehensively establish its performance and advantages in real-world conditions.

Additionally, they are exploring the possibility of applying the concept to prescription glasses, which could offer wearers clear vision at multiple distances.

“This new lens can significantly improve people’s depth of vision under varying lighting conditions,” said Simon.

“Future developments with this technology could also lead to advances in compact imaging technologies, wearable devices and remote sensing systems for drones or self-driving cars, which could make them more reliable and efficient.”

More information:
Laurent Galinier et al, Spiral Diopter: Freeform Lenses With Enhanced Multifocal Behavior, Optics (2024). DOI: 10.1364/OPTICA.507066

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