Illinois researchers developed an ultra-sensitive camera, capable of sensing both color and polarization. The bio-inspired image can potentially improve early cancer detection and provide a new understanding of underwater phenomena.
The animal kingdom is full of creatures with much more sensitive and sophisticated eyes than our own, said, Viktor Gruev, co-author of the new study. These animals perceive natural phenomena that invisible to humans.
The mantis shrimp, considered one of the best hunters in shallow waters, possesses one of the most sophisticated eyes in nature. Compared with human vision, the mantis shrimp has 16 different types of color receptors and six polarization channels.
These organs not only surpass the sensitivity of our own visual systems, they also capture more visual information, using less power and space than today’s most sophisticated, state-of-the-art cameras.
Nature has constructed the mantis shrimp eye in such a way that photosensitive elements vertically stacked on top of each other. This stacking allows for absorption of shorter wavelengths in the shallow photoreceptors and red light in the deep receptors. The photoreceptors organized in a periodic fashion at the nanoscale that allows them to see the properties of polarized light.
Mantis visual system
The same physical laws apply to the mantis visual system also apply to silicon materials, the material used to build our digital cameras. By stacking multiple photo-diodes in silicon, we can see color without the use of special filters.
To combine this technology with metallic nanowires, we effectively replicated the portion of the mantis shrimp visual system. That allows to sense both color and polarization.
This unique combination of silicon photodetectors and nanomaterials allowed to create a point-and-shoot color polarization camera. The applications for such cameras are wide-ranging, from early cancer detection to monitoring changes in the environment to decoding the covert communication channels that many underwater creatures appear to exploit.
By mimicking the mantis shrimp visual system, researchers create a unique camera that improves the quality of our lives. That can detect the early formation of cancer.
The cost of this technology is less than $100, which enables quality health care in resource-limited places around the world.
More information: [OSA]