Eye-inspired tunable imaging system has medical potential
Engineers from the University of Freiburg, Germany have built a novel type of imaging system inspired by the human eye.
It is claimed the technology could lead to new imaging instruments and microscopes for use in medicine and scientific research. Such devices would be used for detecting the early signs of skin cancer or help to provide early visual cues for food spoilage.
The new imaging system is the first to demonstrate the imaging capabilities of focusing techniques that replace conventional, solid lenses with a combination of a malleable lens and a liquid, iris-like component.
Though the image processing that happens in the human brain and eye is complex, the mechanical apparatus is relatively simple. It consists of muscles that deform a stretchable lens to change focal length, the distance between the lens and the point at which rays of light are brought to a focus. The eye’s iris opens and closes to control the amount of light that can pass through the lens.
But as engineers try to shrink the size and expand the capabilities of these instruments, the imaging systems they create become overly complex and expensive. Instead of using complicated mechanisms that require moving parts to tune the focus and adjust the aperture, the Freiburg researchers looked to the eye.
‘What we’re doing now is a completely different means of doing the tuning,’ said Hans Zappe, the Gisela and Erwin Sick Professor of Micro-optics at the University of Freiburg and co-author of the paper.
For their new device, the researchers used two imaging elements that they had demonstrated previously but had never combined into a single system: a lens made of silicone surrounded by several miniaturised motors that adjust the focus by deforming the lens.
‘You can squeeze and stretch it just like your eye squeezes and stretches its lens to adjust its focal length,’ Zappe said in a statement.
October 7, 2013
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