Science

Wasp parasite inspires super-thin camera

An 1896 illustration of Xenos peckii
An 1896 illustration of Xenos peckii
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An 1896 illustration of Xenos peckii
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An 1896 illustration of Xenos peckii
The prototype camera consists of an array of microprisms, every one of them sitting above a corresponding microlens and a single CMOS image sensor
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The prototype camera consists of an array of microprisms, every one of them sitting above a corresponding microlens and a single CMOS image sensor
Each prism/lens captures a partial image of the subject from a slightly different perspective, and these partials are digitally combined to form one wide-angle high-resolution shot of the entire subject
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Each prism/lens captures a partial image of the subject from a slightly different perspective, and these partials are digitally combined to form one wide-angle high-resolution shot of the entire subject

Xenos peckii is a parasitic insect that spends much of its life cycle within the body of a host paper wasp, but it's also known for something else – its unusual eye structure. By copying that structure, scientists have created an ultra-slim camera that could allow for the manufacturing of thinner-than-ever smartphones or other imaging devices.

Developed by a team from the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), the prototype camera is just 1.4 mm thick and has a diameter of 3.4 mm. Instead of the usual single stack of lens elements, it consists of an array of microprisms, every one of them sitting above a corresponding microlens.

Each of these prism/lens combos individually channels light to a single underlying CMOS (complementary metal oxide semiconductor) image sensor. All of these light channels are separated from one another by a light-absorbing material which reduces "optical crosstalk" – this is an undesirable phenomenon in which the light signal from one channel interferes with the signal of an adjacent channel.

The prototype camera consists of an array of microprisms, every one of them sitting above a corresponding microlens and a single CMOS image sensor
The prototype camera consists of an array of microprisms, every one of them sitting above a corresponding microlens and a single CMOS image sensor

Ultimately, each prism/lens captures a partial image of the subject, from a slightly different perspective. These partials are digitally combined to form a single wide-angle high-resolution shot of the entire subject.

"We have proposed a novel method of fabricating an ultrathin camera," says lead scientist Prof. Ki-Hun Jeong. "As the first insect-inspired, ultrathin camera that integrates a microcamera on a conventional CMOS image sensor array, our study will have a significant impact in optics and related fields."

A paper on the research was recently published in the journal Light: Science and Applications.

Source: KAIST

1 comment
bql
why not simply use several small sensor cameras with big physical pixel size and digitally stitch them?