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Optical lenses are devices, made of glass or plastic, which transmit and refract light, and depending on their shape, converge or diverge the beam of light. This has been one of the most useful applications of optical physics, having enabled mankind to do a great many things, from lighting fires to correcting vision, to helping harness the energy of the sun through photovoltaic cells in a more effective way.

Ancient civilizations have started using primitive lenses as burning-glasses, to start fires by concentrating sunlight in a particular spot. In more modern times, lenses have been used overwhelmingly, though not exclusively, for purposes of observation or correcting vision. Lenses vary according to the shape of their surfaces, which can be convex or concave, thus enabling people to use them for different purposes. There are biconvex, plano-convex, plano-concave, positive and negative meniscus, and biconcave lenses.

By far the most widespread contemporary use of the optical lens is for therapeutic and corrective purposes. Modern eyeglasses and contact lenses can be used to correct vision, as well as to cure certain vision deficiencies. In the case of sunglasses and cosmetic contact lenses, the optical lens has also been used for purely cosmetic and non-medical purposes.

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