Scientists Created Lenses That Work Like Insect Eyes

September 14, 2015 | Kelly Tatera

micrograph of the compound eye of an insect
Photo credit: “Curvature-driven, one-step assembly of reconfigurable smectic liquid crystal ‘compound eye’ lenses,” Advanced Optical Materials, 2015.

Scientists at the University of Pennsylvania developed compound lenses that function like insect eyes.

In the eyes of insects and some sea creatures, thousands of lenses work together to provide complex visual information for their simple brains. The striking geometry in their compound eyes inspired researchers to design liquid-crystal optical lenses that function similarly.

With this innovation, scientists are just beginning to experiment to unearth more practical applications for microlenses. Kathleen Stebe, a professor in Chemical and Bimolecular Engineering, says, “If we ever wanted to mass-produce these lenses, we can use the same technique on arbitrarily large surfaces.” It is an interesting thought to ponder what the combination of insect-like sight and the human brain may lead to.

This video shows how liquid crystals form compound lenses:


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