Inspired by the behavior of light-harvesting ommatidia – biological wave guides composed of a lens, crystalline cone and rhabdom – found in the compound eyes of arthropods, the Saravanamuttu Research Group at McMaster University has developed a fundamentally new class of intelligent thin films: Wave guide Encoded Lattices (WELs) possess enhanced panoramic fields of view (FOV) as well as powerful optical properties such as excellent panoramic imaging resolution and range, infinite depth of field and operability at all visible wavelengths including the broad spectra of incandescent light (such as sunlight) and discrete spectral ranges emitted by lasers and LEDs. Light beams naturally diverge and weaken in intensity as they travel through boundless, homogeneous media but when confined to a waveguide, propagate over long distances (>> Rayleigh range) as optical modes that retain their original spatial profiles.
When packed into a hemisphere, the discrete light-collection ranges of individual ommatidia impart a cumulative FOV of ~180º. Despite their near-hemispherical FOVs, compound eyes often possess limited imaging range and resolution due to the small number of light-collecting elements – ommatidia – that can be packed into their characteristically curved geometry. Elegant replicas of compound eyes, which aim to transcribe arthropodal vision to imaging devices have been fabricated; these range from a curved circuit board aligned with a micro-lens array (Floreano et al., PNAS 2013), hemispheres densely patterned with micro-lenses (Deng et al. Adv. Bio-inspired Slim Polymer Films With Wide Fields Of View And Multiple Imaging Capabilities
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