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'Eye' camera ushers era for electronic retina

Posted: 11 Aug 2008 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:curved electronic eye camera? electronic retina? distortion-free cameras?

It's fantasy no more. Two researchers have created what is said to be the world's first curved electronic "eye" camera.

According the AFP report, the device, with the size and shape of a human eye, weaves a network of silicon detectors into a flexible mesh, and could usher in a new generation of distortion-free digital and video cameras. Experiments under way are testing other potential applications, including a thin, pliable monitor to detect electrical signals travelling across the undulating surface of the human brain.

The design paves way to the development of artificial electronic retinas that could one day help restore sight, notes the study published in the British journal Nature.

"This approach allows us to put electronics in places where we couldn't before," said John Rogers, an engineer at the University of Illinois, in the report. Rogers led the research along with Yonggang Huang of Northwestern University.

In the new device, Rogers and Huang overcame the limitations of distortion by a flat imager and damage to light-sensitive pixels caused by conventional sensors. They linked the fragile light-sensitive pixels with tiny, flexible wires which can bend by as much a 40 percent, reported AFP.

The electronic mesh was fitted against a rubber membrane stretched into the curved shape of a retina. Then, it is transferred to a hemispherical glass dome of the same shape, creating the camera lens.

"Using simple mechanics principles, the researchers have produced, for the first time, electronic devices on a hemispherical surface so that they can take images much like those captured by the human eye," noted Ken Chong in the report. Chong is an advisor in the National Science Foundation Engineering Directorate, which funded the study.

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