Scientists develop tiny camera the size of a grain of salt

Credit: Princeton University

Scientists have developed a working microscopic camera that they say is the size of a grain of salt.

Developed by a team of researchers from Princeton University and the University of Washington in America, the camera can create full-colour images as good as ones produced by camera lenses 500,000 times their size.

The design overcomes issues linked with previous micro-sized cameras, which have often produced low-quality images with limited fields of view.

While a traditional camera uses curved glass or plastic lenses to bend light rays into focus, the new optical system relies on a technology called a 'metasurface', which can be produced like a computer chip. 

Previous micro-sized cameras (left) captured fuzzy, distorted images with limited fields of view. Credit: Princeton University

The surface of the new camera contains 1.6 million cylinder shaped 'posts' which use artificial intelligence and light to convert what they detect into a picture.

Hoping it will be able to positively shape health outcomes, scientists say the new design could be used to help doctors take clearer images of the human body to help diagnose and treat diseases.

The camera could also be used to make better quality camera phones.

"We could turn individual surfaces into cameras that have ultra-high resolution, so you wouldn’t need three cameras on the back of your phone anymore, but the whole back of your phone would become one giant camera," Felix Heide, who helped develop the camera, said.

"We can think of completely different ways to build devices in the future."