Artificial eye sees in the dark

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Taking inspiration from the eyes of an unusual fish, researchers have created a device that can improve the ability of cameras to capture images in low light.

Hongrui Jiang

The elephantnose fish (Gnathonemus petersii), is known for its low-light vision, and its retina has many reflective microscopic cups that collect light. Hongrui Jiang and his colleagues at the University of Wisconsin–Madison made an array of microscopic cups from glass, lined with reflective aluminium. By transferring the cups to a stretched silicone polymer sheet, the authors shaped the array into a retina-like dome (pictured). The cups concentrated incoming light, boosting the sensitivity of the eye by more than three times compared to cameras that did not use this device.

The technique blurs the picture slightly, so the team applied an algorithm to sharpen it. The low-cost technique could enhance electronic sensors, which are reaching the limits of their sensitivity, and could have uses in night-vision robots, endoscopes and telescopes, say the authors.

Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA (2016)


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