As reported by DPReview on Tuesday, May 24, 2005:
Scientists at Canada’s Universite Laval have invented a lens that is five times thinner than a piece of paper and can zoom without using mechanical parts. The lens is created by adding a small quantity of photosensitive material to a liquid crystal cell. When a weak electrical current is applied, the crystals realign differently from those in the periphery and thus take on the shape and behavior of a lens. The researchers have been able to modify the lens’ focal distance from 1.6 to 8 meters in a few milliseconds by increasing the voltage from 1.5 to 4.5 volts.
This sounds very similar to liquid lens made by French company Varioptic that Professor Dunleavy blogged about last March. Unless I am mistaken, both use liquid lenses which take advantage of electrical currents to help shape the lens and both feature no mechanical parts.
In related photography news, according to this New Scientist article found on digg, Japanese researchers are developing a system that would eliminate photographs in which the subject blinks, often caused when red eye reduction is turned on.
The system developed by Kaneko’s team gets around the problem by snapping 15 frames in 0.5 seconds after the shutter button is clicked. A computer then rapidly analyses these image, discarding those in which the subject is blinking, leaving photographer with a better final snap.