Saturday, March 3, 2012

Ultra-Compact Webcam, Anyone?

Given that a specimen of Bose-Einstein Condensate can almost stop a beam of light. Can this enormous refractive index be used in constructing an ultra-compact webcam?

By: Ringo Bones

Ever since Danish-born physicist Dr. Lene Vestergaard Hau and her Harvard team of physicists managed to slow down a light beam from 300-million meters-per-second to 3-meters-per-second – akin to a little girl riding a bicycle – with a cigar-shaped specimen of Bose-Einstein Condensate back in 1999. One can only imagine the tremendous refractive index of Bose-Einstein Condensate if used in optical applications given its ability to slow down light by a factor of 100 million.

At present, most optical front-ends of CCD-type digital cameras that are de rigueur in mobile phone / cellular phone / webcam applications are made of low-cost – make that cheap – plastic lenses, never mind ophthalmology-grade glass that’s 35% lead to increase its refractive index or those expensive and esoteric gemstone-grade diamonds shaped into optical lenses. But what advantages does a “practical” optical-grade Bose-Einstein Condensate lens over the current state-of-the-art?

The higher the refractive index of the Bose-Einstein Condensate optics means the possibility of making your webcam or mobile phone or cellular phone camera more compact in comparison to ones currently available. This could mean microscopic surveillance cameras too small to be seen by unaided human eyes. Or how abut equipping your nano-sized robot-surgeons with a camera? The applications of such a breakthrough are seemingly endless. Bose-Einstein Condensate Digital Cameras could be the next best thing in the next CES show in Las Vegas in the not-too-distant future.

What about the problem of maintaining the near-absolute-zero temperature of the Bose-Einstein Condensate optical front-end? Given the current state of cost-effective Aerogel insulation technology, near-absolute-zero temperatures could be easily maintained by enclosing the Bose-Einstein Condensate optical lens in those housings used to contain semiconductor chips; thus shifting the problem of maintaining near-absolute-zero temperature of the Bose-Einstein Condensate only in the manufacturing and fabricating stage. Expensive at first, but electronic hobbyists could one day be soldering packaged Bose-Einstein Condensate lenses on their latest projects.