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Digital cameras mimic visual prowess of bugs

Posted: 14 May 2013 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:digital camera? ocular system? microlens?

The fabrication starts with electronics, detectors and lens arrays formed on flat surfaces using advanced techniques adapted from the semiconductor industry, said Xiao, who began working on the project as a postdoctoral researcher in Rogers' lab at Illinois. The lens sheetmade from a polymer material similar to a contact lensand the electronics/detectors are then aligned and bonded together. Pneumatic pressure deforms the resulting system into the desired hemispherical shape, in a process much like blowing up a balloon, but with precision engineering control.

The individual electronic detectors and microlenses are coupled together to avoid any relative motion during this deformation process. Here, the spaces between these artificial ommatidia can stretch to allow transformation in geometry from planar to hemispherical. The electrical interconnections are thin and narrow, in filamentary serpentine shapes. They deform as tiny springs during the stretching process.

According to the researchers, each microlens produces a small image of an object with a form dictated by the parameters of the lens and the viewing angle. An individual detector responds only if a portion of the image formed by the associated microlens overlaps the active area. The detectors stimulated in this way produce a sampled image of the object that can then be reconstructed using models of the optics.

Over the last several years, Rogers and his colleagues have developed materials, mechanics principles and manufacturing processes that enable classes of electronics that can bend, twist and stretch like a rubber band. This device technology has been used in fields ranging from photovoltaics, to health/wellness monitors, to advanced surgical tools and digital cameras with designs of the mammalian eye.

"Certain of the enabling ideas build on concepts that originated in our labs a half dozen years ago," remarked Rogers, who is also the director of the Frederick Seitz Materials Research Laboratory at Illinois. "Ever since, we have been intrigued by the possibility of creating digital fly's eye cameras. Such devices are of longstanding interest, not only to us but many others as well, owing to their potential for use in surveillance devices, tools for endoscopy and other applications where these insect-inspired designs provide unique capabilities."

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