Ultrathin digital camera inspired by eyes of wasp parasite

January 23, 2019 //By Julien Happich
Ultrathin digital camera inspired by eyes of wasp parasite
With the aim to further shrink camera design and optics, researchers from the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology designed a new type of multi-faceted compound eye, much thinner than other designs typically inspired from nature.

As their paper “Xenos peckii vision inspires an ultrathin digital camera” suggests, the researchers got their inspiration from paper wasps’ endoparasite Xenos peckii, whose compound eyes are unlike those of most insects and crustaceans. Distributed at the periphery of its compound eyes, each of the endoparasite’s eyelets (or optical units) consists of a relatively large convex facet lens backed with over a hundred photoreceptor cells.

Through their 3D spatial distribution and orientation, each such optical unit detects part of the overall field-of-view FOV, but with improved spatial resolution and sensitivity compared to other compound eyes only sporting one or few photoreceptor cells per eyelet.

Scanning electron micrographs of a Xenos peckii (a), close up on the compounded eye (b) and superimposed fluorescently stained eyelets (c).

Now, in order to translate these attributes into a compact physical design, the researchers sandwiched multiple concave microprisms and microlenses combined with pinhole arrays on a flat image sensor. In this setup, the light path for each microprism playing the role of an eyelet is focused across multiple pixels playing the role of the photoreceptors).

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