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The key to credit-card-thin cameras?

Engineers at UC San Diego have packed a full camera lens onto a 5-millimeter-thick optical crystal.

The biggest origami news of 2007 has nothing to do with Microsoft or ultramobile PCs.

The origami system crams a full lensonto a 5-millimeter-thick crystal

Instead, thanks to centuries-old telescope technology reapplied to camera lenses by engineers at UC San Diego, the origami lens takes the cake.

At just one-seventh the thickness as a traditional lens, the origami system could significantly raise the resolution bar for camera phones. It might also make today's slimmest ultracompact cams seem like anvils.

The system borrows the folded optical system found in Cassegrain telescopes, but uses a single, diamond-cut optical crystal instead of a series of mirrors. The origami system bounces light through a calcium fluoride crystal just five millimeters thick.

On the UC San Diego Web site, project leader and UC San Diego professor Joseph Ford claims, "Our camera will look a lot like a lens cap that can be focused and used as a regular camera."