Optical Lenses

China Optical LensesOne of the most useful inventions of applied optics is the optical lens. Optical lenses are optical devices made out glass or plastic that transmit and refract electromagnetic radiation, including visible light.

Lenses have been used ever since ancient civilizations–the Assyrians, the Greeks, the Egyptians, and others–discovered their use as burning-glasses, to start fires by concentrating sunlight. Today, lenses are used overwhelmingly for purposes of observation or vision correction. Simple lenses can be divided up into categories based on the convex or concave nature of their two surfaces. There are biconvex, plano-convex, plano-concave, positive and negative meniscus, and biconcave lenses.

Optical lenses are also useful for corrective and therapeutic purposes. The medical field, in fact, benefited tremendously from this product of applied optics, with corrective eyeglasses, as well as contact lenses for therapeutic, corrective, and cosmetic purposes being some of the most widely sold optical devices in history–and they are all made possible by the invention of the optical lens.

Lenses are also crucial to modern scientific observation. Without optical lenses, there would be no microscope, essential in chemistry and biology, or telescopes, without which modern astronomy would be inconceivable.
The development of feasible solar power generation also depends on large optical lenses that concentrate the sunlight onto smaller photovoltaic cells, making it unnecessary to have large, expensive cells.

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