Human Eye-Inspired Lens Sees the World More Clearly
An artificial GRIN lenses inspired by the human eye.
CREDIT: Optics Express
A new artificial lens designed to mimic the optic properties of the human eye could lead to better contact lenses and improved surveillance technology, scientists say.
The new lens employs a technology called GRIN – short for gradient refractive index optics – that can bend, or refract, light by varying degrees. In contrast, traditional lenses, like those found in optical telescopes and microscopes, use their surface shapes to bend light in only one way or another.
"The human eye is a GRIN lens," Michael Ponting, a polymer scientist and president of PolymerPlus, said in a statement. "As light passes from the front of the human eye lens to the back, light rays are refracted by varying degrees. It's a very efficient means of controlling the pathway of light without relying on complicated optics, and one that we attempted to mimic."
To create the artificial GRIN lens, Ponting and his team stacked thousands of nanoscale plastic layers, each with slightly different optical properties, to create a lens that can incrementally change the refraction of light.
The team thinks GRIN optics could be used to miniaturize medical imaging devices or implantable lenses, or improve the lenses used to treat cataracts and other vision disorders.
"A copy of the human eye lens is a first step toward demonstrating the capabilities, eventual biocompatible and possibly deformable material systems necessary to improve the current technology used in optical implants," Ponting explained.
Because the news lens can potentially generate distortion free images, they could also be incorporated into cameras and ground- and aerial-based military surveillance products, the team says.
The research is detailed in the current issue of the journal Optics Express.