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UC Berkeley researchers create a biologically-inspired artificial compound eye

Using the eyes of insects such as dragonflies and houseflies as models, a team of bioengineers at University of California, Berkeley, has created a series of artificial compound eyes.

These eyes can eventually be used as cameras or sensory detectors to capture visual or chemical information from a wider field of vision than previously possible, even with the best fish-eye lens, said Luke P. Lee, the team's principal investigator. Potential applications include surveillance; high-speed motion detection; environmental sensing; medical procedures, such as endoscopies and image-guided surgeries, that require cameras; and a number of clinical treatments that can be controlled by implanted light delivery devices.

They are the first hemispherical, three-dimensional optical systems to integrate microlens arrays ?thousands of tiny lenses packed side by side ?with self-aligned, self-written waveguides, that is, light-conducting channels that themselves have been created by beams of light, said Lee, the Lloyd Distinguished Professor of Bioengineering at UC Berkeley.

The eyes are fully described for the first time in the April 28 issue of the journal Science.

"I've always wanted to create an advanced, three-dimensional optical system," Lee said, "but conventional microfabrication technology is two-dimensional. So, I started thinking about basing a fabrication system on the developmental stages of insect eyes that I'd learned about as a biophysicist and bioengineer."

What he and his team came up with is a low-cost, easy-to-replicate method of creating pinhead-sized polymer resin domes spiked with thousands of light-guiding channels, each topped with its own lens. Not only are these units packed together in the same hexagonal, honeycomb pattern as in an insect's compound eye, but each is also remarkably similar in size, design, shape and function to an ommatidium, the individual sensory unit of a compound eye.

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Source:University of California - Berkeley


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