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Spherical aberration disk

Physicists came up with a solution to the 2000 years old ‘unsolvable’ optical problem

  • A group of physicists from National Autonomous University, Mexico and Tec de Monterrey has found the solution to the Wasserman-Wolf problem(Basically it is the problem of spherical aberration).
  • González-Acuña, Chaparro-Romo and Gutiérrez-Vega managed to come up with a lengthy mathematical equation involving work of several months which provides an analytical solution to eliminate the problem of spherical aberration.
  • The solution involves fixing the shape of a second aspherical surface in addition to a first surface.

A group of physicists from National Autonomous University, Mexico and Tec de Monterrey has found the solution to the Wasserman-Wolf problem. It is a 2000 year old optical problem. The scientists Rafael González-Acuña, Julio Gutiérrez-Vega and Héctor Chaparro-Romo described the mathematics of the puzzle along with its applications and efficiency results. The paper has been published in the Applied Optics journal

Diocles, a Greek scientist had identified the problem with optical lenses 2000 years ago. He observed that when objects are viewed with devices equipped with optical lenses, the edges appeared to be fuzzier than the centre. He explained this effect attributing the reason for the lenses being spherical, upon which incident light cannot be focused due to refractive differences. Imperfections in the material and shape of the lens also contribute to the light missing the target.

This is now known as a spherical aberration which was considered unsolvable as even physicists such as Isaac Newton and Gottfried Leibniz could not crack it.

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Wasserman and Wolf described the problem analytically in 1949 and termed it as Wasserman-Wolf problem. They tried to solve the problem with the approach of using two aspheric adjacent surfaces for correcting the aberrations. Lensmakers and researchers have come up with a variety of approaches since then for producing sharp uniform images by eliminating aberration. There have been developments in lens manufacturing and design from several companies which primarily involved aspherical lenses. But they have been generally very expensive and not so convenient to manufacture although leading to improvement in images. 

But González-Acuña, Chaparro-Romo and Gutiérrez-Vega managed to come up with a lengthy mathematical equation involving work of several months which provides an analytical solution to eliminate the problem of spherical aberration. The equation looks incomprehensible to the common man but it is applicable for a lens of any size. The solution involves fixing the shape of a second aspherical surface in addition to a first surface. The solution is independent of the material, size and application of the lens and provides the exact specifications for the lens to be optically perfect. 

This breakthrough will solve the headache of the photographers who were desperate for perfect images but could not get them irrespective of the money spent. It will also help in scientific observations where better images can lead to accurate results. The normal users will also be benefited from this solution as they can get images of higher quality in their smartphones and cameras. 

Journal Reference: Applied Optics journal

About the author: Sai Teja Moderator
Sai Teja is a second-year computer science undergraduate at the University of Hyderabad. With expertise in many modern technologies like Machine Learning, he is also a blogger and has interests in digital marketing and SEO also. He has a dream to build a single internet destination for science and technology enthusiasts

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