- Metalenz raised $10 million in a Series A funding round.
- The lens manufacturer will invest to scale up production.
- Robert Devlin and Federico Capasso co-founded Metalenz in 2017.
Metalenz raised $10 million to produce 3D sensors on a chip. The sensor structures are 1,000 times smaller than a human hair. The new investment will enable Metalenz to scale up production and accelerate the development of miniature optics for chip technology. Its new lens will power next-generation sensors for use in smartphones and other consumers, healthcare, and automotive applications. Lenses that enable brighter, higher-quality infrared images than conventional lenses are among the potential fruits of this technology.
The higher-quality lenses mean more powerful phone capabilities for customers. They help them snap more professional-looking images while promoting longer battery life. They deliver better images even in the most challenging environments. Right now, to render 3D imagery, smartphone makers such as Apple include multiple cameras in smartphones. The money, along with participation from Tsingyuan Ventures and Braemar Energy Ventures, comes from 3M Ventures, Applied Ventures, Intel Capital, M Ventures, and TDK Ventures.
The sensors are based on meta-optic technologies pioneered at the John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Harvard University (SEAS). In 2017, Metalenz was co-founded by Robert Devlin and Federico Capasso, a professor of applied physics.
Metalenz gets new patents
The Boston company has an intellectual property head start with a decade of research. It has 15 issued patents on the concept. Metalenz already works with a number of the world’s largest consumer electronics and automotive manufacturers.
The majority of advances in camera and sensing technology in consumer electronics have been in electronics and algorithms over the past 20 years, but the optics themselves have remained fairly unchanged. At Metalenz, lenses that allow large-scale production in the same semiconductor foundries that make the electronics for the first time are provided with new functionality, CEO Devlin said in a statement. “We are excited to welcome Tier 1 semiconductor leaders as investment partners as we bring completely new forms of sensing to consumer electronics that will ultimately revolutionize everything from the automotive and healthcare industries to telephones, augmented reality, and deskless workers.”
Lens Technology under Metalenz
Lens technology has remained relatively unchanged for hundreds of years, despite the improvements in cameras. The emerging field of meta-optics, or optical metasurfaces, focuses on engineered materials with patterned structures that are 1,000 times smaller than human hair and specifically designed to take advantage of properties that are impossible to obtain from natural materials in bulk.
The company said the combination of several lenses into a single thin and flat surface allows unique meta-optic properties and unlocks new possibilities. This involves enhanced 3D sensing and new sensors that can fit under a cell phone’s display.
Through the Office of Technology Advancement of Harvard University, Metalenz holds an exclusive worldwide license for a portfolio of fundamental intellectual properties relating to metasurfaces developed in the Capasso Lab at Harvard SEAS. Metalenz focuses on design and engineering as a fabless semiconductor firm, and it can tap manufacturers to mass-produce its sensors.