Artificial ‘bug eyes’ could lead to new vision systems – Headline Science

Artificial ‘bug eyes’ could lead to new vision systems – Headline Science


Anyone who’s tried to swat a pesky mosquito
knows how quickly the insects can evade a hand or fly swatter. These lightning-fast reflexes are due in large
part to the pests’ compound eyes, which provide an exceptionally wide field of view. Inspired by the mosquito eye, researchers
reporting in ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces have developed compound lenses that could
someday be used in self-driving vehicles, robots or medical devices. Most insects have compound eyes, which are
curved arrays of microscopic lenses. Each tiny lens captures an individual image,
and the mosquito’s brain puts all of the images together to achieve peripheral vision
–– without the insect having to move its eyes or head. Artificial compound eyes are good candidates
for miniaturized vision systems, which could someday be used by drones or robots to quickly
image their surroundings. Joelle Frechette and colleagues wanted to
develop a liquid manufacturing process to make compound lenses with most of the features
of the mosquito eye. To make each microlens, the researchers used
a microfluidic device to produce oil droplets that were coated with silica nanoparticles. Then, they organized many of these microlenses
into a closely packed array around a larger oil droplet. They locked the structure in place with UV
light. The resulting compound lens had a viewing
angle of 149 degrees, similar to that of the mosquito eye. The researchers determined this by using the
compact lens to “read” numbers 1 through 20 printed on a transparent sheet placed above
the lens. Also like mosquito eyes, the compound lens
had anti-fogging properties. Nanostructures on the microlenses caused water
to collect in spaces between the lenses, making images appear less distorted than those from
compound lenses without the nanostructures. This property could allow the compound lens
to function under conditions of low temperature or high humidity. The researchers could move, deform, and relocate
the fluid lenses, allowing them to create arrays of compound lenses with even greater
viewing capabilities.

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