How the Combination of Lenses Improves Optical Aberration

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  • 0:05 Optical Aberrations
  • 1:09 Chromatic Aberrations
  • 2:47 Monochromatic Aberration
  • 3:58 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

Even the best simple lenses can come with some basic problems. In this lesson, we'll examine the issue of optical aberrations and see how we can fix them with more complex lenses.

Optical Aberrations

If I take a picture of a landscape, what do you expect that picture to end up looking like? Yeah, probably the actual landscape. That's kind of the point of a photograph. We expect cameras, and other devices that use lenses to concentrate light, to behave in a specific way. Basically, when light waves from a source pass through a lens, those waves are supposed to converge on a single point. That's how you actually see an image through a lens. But, sometimes this doesn't happen. Sometimes, light waves miss each other, and instead of converging, they end up at different points, resulting in an image that is blurred or distorted. We call the factors that cause light not to converge through a lens optical aberrations. Optical aberrations can occur in telescopes, microscopes, cameras, and anything else that uses simple lenses to produce an image. So, how do we fix optical aberrations in a simple lens? The answer is complex. You'll get that in a minute.

Chromatic Aberrations

Now, technically optical aberrations can occur in a number of ways. However, they can be sorted into two main categories. First are chromatic aberrations, aberrations that occur when light refracts through the lens into various wavelengths of color. Basically, think of how light is concentrated when is shines through a magnifying glass. That's what it's supposed to look like. Then think about what happens when light shines through a prism. That's sort of what happens in a chromatic aberration. Instead of converging, the light disperses as light waves of various lengths refract differently. Light wavelengths for red end up refracting at a different angle than light waves for blue, and the aberration occurs.

So, how do we fix it? Back in the 18th century, scientists realized that if some lenses refract red light at one angle, and some refract blue at another, by combining them they could make both light waves converge at the same point. The result was a doublet, two lenses of different material combined together to make light of different wavelengths converge. A doublet is an example of a complex lens, a lens made from two lenses of different surface shapes that share an axis. It's a complex lens. Complex. See, told you you'd get that joke later. Anyway, these complex lenses can be shaped in different ways to correct various chromatic aberrations and bring various waves of light back to a single converging point.

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