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Scientists successfully mimic insect eyes

May 2006
Imagine being able to see more than a 90° field of view without turning your head. Because of their compound eyes, insects can, but so far, only fish-eye lenses can artificially accomplish this, and they are bulky and require multiple lenses and strict alignment. Such a wide field of view could be useful in many applications, including medical diagnostics.

Images reprinted with permission of Science.

Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, led by Luke P. Lee, have simulated insect eyes using a spherical arrangement of 8370 artificial ommatidia made of flexible polymers. Ommatidia are the optical units of insect eyes and typically consist of a lens, photoreceptor cells and a cone that directs the light. The artificial ommatidia are arranged omnidirectionally along a hemispherical polymer dome (left image). Each artificial ommatidium consists of a tiny lens connected to a waveguide that directs light to a photodetector, as seen in the right image, which is a cross-section.

The artificial eyes are most similar to a bee’s eye and are only 2.5 mm in diameter. The work is published in the April 28 issue of Science.

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