Compound Lenses Inspired by the Mosquito Eye

Mosquito compound eyes are elaborate multifunctional hierarchical structures. The presence of ordered curved features spanning length scales of nanometers to millimeters provides the mosquito eye with a wide field of view, an infinite depth of field, and antifogging properties. (Source: ACS)

Anyone who’s tried to swat a pesky mosquito knows how quickly the insects can evade a hand or fly swatter. The pests’ compound eyes, which provide a wide field of view, are largely responsible for these lightning-fast actions. Now, researchers from the Johns Hopkins Uni­versity in Balti­more have developed compound lenses inspired by the mosquito eye that could someday find appli­cations in autonomous vehicles, robots or medical devices.

Compound eyes, found in most arthropods, consist of many micro­scopic lenses organized on a curved array. Each tiny lens captures an individual image, and the mosquito’s brain integrates all of the images to achieve peripheral vision without head or eye movement. The simpli­city and multi­functionality of compound eyes make them good candidates for minia­turized vision systems, which could be used by drones or robots to rapidly image their surroun­dings. Joelle Frechette and colleagues wanted to develop a liquid manu­facturing process to make compound lenses with most of the features of the mosquito eye.

To make each microlens, the researchers used a capillary micro­fluidic device to produce oil droplets surrounded by silica nano­particles. Then, they organized many of these micro­lenses into a closely packed array around a larger oil droplet. They poly­merized the structure with ultraviolet light to yield a compound lens with a viewing angle of 149 degrees, similar to that of the mosquito eye. The silica nano­particles coating each microlens had anti­fogging properties, reminiscent of nano­structures on mosquito eyes that allow the insect organs to function in humid environ­ments. The researchers could move, deform and relocate the fluid lenses, allowing them to create arrays of compound lenses with even greater viewing capa­bilities. (Source: ACS)

Reference: D. Shin et al.: Multifunctional Liquid Marble Compound Lenses, ACS Appl. Mater. Interf. 1134478 (2019); DOI: 10.1021/acsami.9b12738

Link: Dept. of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, USA

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