Cameras have long mimicked the optics
of the eye. Both collect and focus light with a convex outer lens. However, cameras have a shortcoming: They typically focus
the image onto a flat surface. Whether this surface is covered with film or a digital sensor, distortion results from the
projecting of light from a curved lens onto the flat surface. The insertion of additional lenses reduces the distortion, but
this adds to camera weight and cost. Our eye with its hemispherical shape has no such problem.
Researchers at the University of Illinois,
Urbana, have now replaced the flat light-collecting part of a camera with a curved surface similar to the rear of the eyeball.
The challenge is to curve the silicon photodetector, which is brittle and tends to fracture. To solve this problem, the engineers
attached many small silicon detectors, connected with fine wires, to a flexible plastic membrane. The silicon components are
similar to the individual rods and cones which make up our retina. The artificial membrane itself is warped into an eyeball
shape, including the silicon components, shaped similar to the eyeball.
It is popular for modern critics of creation
to complain about imperfections in our eyesight. However, engineers continue to look to our eye for improvements in cameras.
The abstract of the first Nature article below begins, “The human eye is a remarkable imaging device, with
many attractive design features.”
Bionic eye, stretchable electronics
Heung, Cho and many others. 2008. A hemispherical electronic
eye camera based on compressible silicon optoelectronics. Nature 454(7205):748-753.
Takao, Someya. 2008. Optics: electronic
eyeballs. Nature 454(7205):703-704.