Fresnel lens

Lens of a  in
Lens of a lighthouse in Rozewie

A Fresnel lens is a type of lens invented by Augustin-Jean Fresnel. Originally developed for lighthouses, the design enables the construction of lenses of large size and short focal length without the weight and volume of material which would be required in a lens of conventional design.


Detailed information

The Fresnel lens (often pronounced FREZ-nell but usually the original fre-NELL in theatrical and motion picture lighting applications) reduces the amount of material required compared to a conventional spherical lens by breaking the lens into a set of concentric annular sections known as Fresnel zones. For each of these zones, the overall thickness of the lens is decreased, effectively chopping the continuous surface of a standard lens into a set of surfaces of the same curvature, with discontinuities between them. This allows a substantial reduction in thickness (and thus weight and volume of material) of the lens, at the expense of reducing the imaging quality of the lens.

Graphic example

A:Cross section of a Fresnel lensB: Cross section of a conventional  lens of equivalent power
A:Cross section of a Fresnel lens
B: Cross section of a conventional plano-convex lens of equivalent power
Missing image
Close-up of a lighthouse lens


 first-order Fresnel lens
Cape Meares Lighthouse first-order Fresnel lens

For these reasons, Fresnel lenses tend to be used in applications where weight of the lens is at a premium and/or image quality is unimportant. High quality glass Fresnel lenses are used in lighthouses and may include extra annular prismatic elements to improve the brightness of the light beam. Cheap Fresnel lenses can be stamped or moulded out of transparent plastic and are used in overhead projectors, projection televisions, and hand-held sheet magnifying glasses. A related optical device is the Fresnel zone plate. Fresnel lenses are also used in solar forges.

Sizes of lighthouse lenses

Fresnel lenses for lighthouses are classified in six orders based on the focal length of the lens. The largest (first order) lens stands 12 feet (3.7m) tall and 6 feet (1.8m) across, with a focal length of 36 inches (0.91m). The smallest (sixth order) stands only 2 feet (0.60m) tall, with a focal length of 5.9 inches (14.9cm). A 7th "hyperradial" lens was also made. It was larger than the 1st order.

External links

de:Fresnellinse pl:Soczewka Fresnela sv:Fresnel-lins


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