3D optics for 3D imaging: physics and computational approaches

George Barbastathis
MIT Mechanical Engineering

In 3D optical elements, light interacts with the element throughout its entire volume (as opposed to discrete set of surfaces, which is done in traditional optics.) This allows for more degrees of freedom in shaping the optical response, in particular creating shift-variant responses. We have used this property in a number of ways to acquire 3D object information from both reflective and fluorescent objects under a variety of illumination conditions, including lase and white light. The key benefits of using 3D optics are summarized as excellent resolution over long working distances, reduced or completely eliminated scanning, and simultaneous spectral imaging. We have also developed a toolset of computational techniques, based on maximum-likelihood principles, to maximize the amount of information extracted from the optical field. In this talk, we will summarize the physics of 3D optics and argue that the combined optimization of physics and computation is the most promising for imaging systems of the future. We will also discuss some recent results on a new research program aiming to construct an ultra-thin/ultra-wide aperture camera using 3D optics, and the lessons learnt from that effort.


George Barbastathis received the Electrical and Computer Engineer's degree from the National Technical University of Athens in 1993, and the M.Sc. and Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from the California Institute of Technology in 1994 and 1997, respectively. After post-doctoral work at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, he joined the faculty at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1999, where he is currently Associate Professor in the Mechanical Engineering Department. Dr. Barbastathis' research group works on information photonics, i.e. the use of new optical physics and engineering design methods towards utilizing light in information processing, in particular sensing/imaging and nanofabrication. The unifying theme of Prof. Barbastathisresearch is the use of the 3rd dimension for information processing, for example 3D spatial heterodyning for simultaneous high-resolution 3D spatial and spectral imaging, and nanostructured origamiTM, a method for 3D fabrication and assembly using exclusively 2D litho tools. His past research accomplishments include the holographic method of shift multiplexing, an interferometric corneal topographer, volume holographic confocal microscopy, resonant holography, and the first-ever real-time four-dimensional (spatial and spectral) optical microscope. Dr. Barbastathis is presently serving as Topical Editor for the Journal of the Optical Society of America A.