Their electronics, which can bend, twist and stretch without breaking, were well suited to the challenge of developing a hemispherical camera.
"Full 180-degree fields of view with zero aberrations can only be accomplished with image sensors that adopt hemispherical layouts -- much different than the planar CCD chips found in commercial cameras," said Rogers, a Swanlund Chair Professor, of the new camera.
"When implemented with large arrays of microlenses, each of which couples to an individual photodiode, this type of hemispherical design provides unmatched field of view and other powerful capabilities in imaging," he said. "Nature has developed and refined these concepts over the course of billions of years of evolution."
Eyes in arthropods use compound designs, in which arrays of smaller eyes act together to provide image perception. Each small eye, known as an ommatidium, consists of a corneal lens, a crystalline cone and a light-sensitive organ at the base. The entire system is configured to provide exceptional properties in imaging, many of which lie beyond the reach of existing man-made cameras.
The 180 microlenses of Roger and Huang's camera is comparable to the eye of fire ants and bark beetles, but less than the fly eye, which has thousands of small eyes.
"Existing camera imaging technology is flat, and we made a system that is curvilinear," Huang said. "Making a stretchable array of photodetectors was easy -- that's what we do. The difficult part was making a hemispherical lens. We needed to make sure the lens experienced as little strain as possible when stretched."
The researchers developed new ideas
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