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Scientists build artificial bug eyes

By
Brooks Hays
The nanostructures on the artificial insect eyes resemble shag carpet. Photo by American Chemical Society
The nanostructures on the artificial insect eyes resemble shag carpet. Photo by American Chemical Society

Jan. 9 (UPI) -- Scientists have developed new techniques for building artificial insect-like eyes. The synthetic compound eyes and the optical advantages they offer could be incorporated into a variety of technologies.

Single lens eyes found among humans and a variety of animals boast impressive focus and precision. But what compound eyes -- the multi-lens approach deployed by insects -- lack in resolution, they make up for with enhanced peripheral vision, light sensitivity and motion detection.

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Researchers have developed new techniques for replicating these advantages in artificial compound eyes. To build the bio-inspired eyes, scientists had to find a way to create independent but repeating visual receptors.

Some insect eyes have thousands of visual receptor units, each boasting a lens, cornea and photoreceptor cells.

Scientists at Xi'an Jiaotong University in China used a multistep approach to replicate the complex visual system.

"The hierarchical eyes were accomplished by a combination of modified laser swelling, air-assisted deformation and controlled crystal growth," researchers said in the journal ACS Nano.

First, researchers shot a laser through a double layer of acrylic glass. The layers caused the lower laser to swell and create a convex shape. Using the same technology, scientists created several of the tiny lenses to be fitted together, forming a larger curved lens.

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"Then, through several steps, the researchers grew nanostructures on top of the convex glass domes that, up close, resemble a shag carpet," researchers said in a news release. "The nanostructures endowed the microlenses with desirable antireflective and water-repellent properties."

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