Editor's Summary

3 August 2006

Smart liquid microlenses


The trend towards miniaturization in optical imaging, diagnostics and lab-on-a-chip technology is creating a demand for sophisticated microlenses. A new type of smart liquid microlens has been developed that differs from most current devices in that it is self-focusing. The key component is a stimuli-responsive hydrogel integrated into a microfluidic system and acting as a container for a liquid droplet. The hydrogel simultaneously senses stimuli and actuates a change in droplet shape — and hence focal length. Stimuli can include biological and chemical agents and physical parameters. At this micrometre scale, pinned liquid-liquid interfaces are used to attain stable devices, and response times of ten to a few tens of seconds. Lenses can have virtually any focal length and are readily integrated into arrays.

LetterAdaptive liquid microlenses activated by stimuli-responsive hydrogels

Liang Dong, Abhishek K. Agarwal, David J. Beebe and Hongrui Jiang

doi:10.1038/nature05024