BERLIN: Researchers have created a three-lens camera no bigger than a grain of salt that can be injected into the body using a standard syringe.

The team at University of Stuttgart reported their results in Nature Photonics, a journal. They set out to try 3D printing as a way of bypassing the manufacturing limitations of making high-quality micro and nano optics for medical purposes, and in a few hours were able to design, manufacture, and test their ‘tiny eye’ by mounting it onto an optical fiber around as thick as two human hairs.

The camera produced, in the researchers’ words, “high optical performances and tremendous compactness.”

The lens array is just 120 micrometers wide inside its casing and can focus from as close as 3mm away, making it perfect for non-invasive exploration of bodily organs. It could even offer an intimate peek inside the human brain.

And since these lenses can be printed directly onto image sensors (not just optical fibers) the tech will probably find many exciting applications outside of medical imagery as well.