U.S. Scientists Create Artificial Eyes Thu Apr 27, 7:07 PM ET


Jul 16, 2001

I've always wanted to create an advanced, three-dimensional optical system, but conventional microfabrication technology is two-dimensional. So, I started thinking about basing a fabrication system on the developmental stages of insect eyes that I'd learned about as a biophysicist and bioengineer," said principal investigator Luke P. Lee, professor of bioengineering at the University of California, Berkley.

The artificial eyes are the first hemispherical, three-dimensional optical systems to integrate microlens arrays -- thousands of tiny lenses packed side by side -- with self-aligned, self-written "waveguides," which are light-conducting channels created by beams of light, Lee explained.

He and his colleagues also created a low-cost, easy-to-replicate technique of creating pinhead-sized polymer resin domes spiked with thousands of light-guiding channels, each topped with its own lens.

The Berkley eyes may eventually be used as cameras or sensory detectors to collect visual or chemical information from a far wider field of vision than is currently possible, Lee said.

Potential applications for the artificial compound eyes include surveillance; high-speed motion detection; environmental sensing; medical procedures (such as image-guided surgery) that require cameras; and clinical treatments that can be controlled by implanted light delivery devices.

The eyes are described in the April 28 issue of the journal Science.