LG developing ultrathin camera metalens for compact and frugal electric vehicle self-driving kits
A new type of lenses developed by LG may usher in the era of "compact and low-power" camera sets in electric vehicle self-driving modules. LG Innotek, the department in charge of the conglomerate's camera development, has presented its research in the so-called metalens field - flat surfaces on which nanoparticles can be arranged at will - and said it is developing one that is ten thousand times thinner than current glass or plastic lenses.
The metalens method is quite different than the hard-to-scale liquid lenses which LG was developing together with Corning but froze the research on yield and commercialization issues. Metalenses have a flat, planar structure peppered with nanoparticles that can focus the light wavelengths in various ways, just like regular lenses, but can be as thin as a micron. They pave the way for drastic miniaturization of imaging systems like electric vehicles cameras, while LG said they can also be used in phones and various other micro-camera applications. According to LG Innotek's CTO Kang Min-seok:
We are researching a meta lens that can be realized at 1/10,000 level. As for the purpose of the meta-lens technology research, it is to implement an ultra-thin lens by replacing the refractive lens with a planar meta surface. Metalenses have the potential to be applied not only to automobiles, but also to mobile products and micro-cameras.
He mentioned that LG has partnered with various academic institutions over the metalens research in order to speed up its development. Last year, Samsung also confirmed at the same forum as LG that it is "studying" metalenses and preparing for their development.
Samsung recently bagged all the orders for the Tesla Semi and Cybertruck self-driving camera sets at the expense of LG Innotek. Considering that Tesla's Full Self-Driving mode now relies exclusively on camera rather than LiDAR help, and its FSD kits contain at least eight cameras per vehicle, Samsung better speed up its metalens research if it doesn't want LG to come back with a miniaturized, low-power camera vengeance.