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An electronic eye to behold

Researchers in the US have produced an electronic eye camera that uses a curved detection surface — like a human eye — to achieve exceptional imaging suitable for diverse applications.

This new imaging device could simplify the optics in miniature cameras, and the underlying approach to producing curved electronic surfaces could find use in biological monitoring devices and ‘smart’ prosthetics.

Reporting in this week’s Nature, John Rogers and colleagues at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Northwestern University, Illinois, based their electronic eye camera on silicon electronics specially designed to allow large amounts of compressibility and stretchability. This means that “it can be molded onto a hemispherical substrate”, according to Takao Someya of the University of Tokyo commenting in a related ‘News and Views’ article.

Previous attempts to create hemispherical shapes in flat imaging materials, such as semiconductor materials and glass plates, focused on the deformation of plastic sheets and the folding of elastic membranes and proved difficult to achieve.

Transformation of flat layouts into curved shapes, in the case of imaging systems, allows for wide-angle fields of view, compact sizes and low image distortions that could prove useful in the production of many different imaging devices.

This technology, for example, “could be applied to integrate optoelectronics onto complex curvilinear surfaces for use in health-monitoring devices that optically detect concentrations of oxygen and other constituents in blood,” notes Someya.

Nature 454, 7205 table of contents

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