Image quality isn't the only measure of a camera's functionality. The PFCA, developed by a Cornell Postdoc, has only a 20-pixel resolution but its size and construction will allow it to go where few cameras have been before.
The Planar Fourier Capture Array (PFCA) is constructed from a single piece of doped silicon and lack either a lens or any moving parts. It measures just 1/100th of a millimeter thick and only a half millimeter on each side—thinner than a human hair. Its dim 20-pixel-wide images are captured using advanced mathematical Fourier Transformations. Basically, the PFCA doesn't record images as a whole. Instead, each pixel records one component of the image by measuring the individual incident angles within it. This disparate data is then patched together by a computer into a unified image. "It's not going to be a camera with which people take family portraits, but there are a lot of applications out there that require just a little bit of dim vision," states Gill.
Nothing on the PFCA requires off-chip manufacturing, which results in an incredibly simple, small, and light miniature camera that costs pennies to produce. Similar-sized cameras with moving parts are more expensive by a factor of ten! This allows the camera to be, say, implanted in your skull to image neurons or used by satellites to measure the angle of the Sun or even help tiny robots to navigate a landscape.
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