Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Bioinspired Sensor Can See in the Dark

Design News: Researchers at the University of Wisconsin in Madison (UW-Madison) developed the bioinspired photosensitivity enhancer (BPE), an "artificial eye" inspired by creatures that live deep under the ocean, where light is scarce. Their paper is published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS):

"Artificial eye for scotopic vision with bioinspired all-optical photosensitivity enhancer" by Hewei Liu, Yinggang Huang, and Hongrui Jiang

From the abstract: "to date, strategies toward improving low-light imaging primarily focus on developing electronic image sensors. Inspired by natural scotopic visual systems, we adopt an all-optical method to significantly improve the overall photosensitivity of imaging systems. Such optical approach is independent of, and can effectively circumvent the physical and material limitations of, the electronics imagers used. We demonstrate an artificial eye inspired by superposition compound eyes and the retinal structure of elephantnose fish. The bioinspired photosensitivity enhancer (BPE) that we have developed enhances the image intensity without consuming power, which is achieved by three-dimensional, omnidirectionally aligned microphotocollectors with parabolic reflective sidewalls. Our work opens up a previously unidentified direction toward achieving high photosensitivity in imaging systems."

The main idea is to condense the light into a smaller area by means of "thousands of microphotocollectors (μ-PCs). The miniaturized, low-cost, and zero-power-consumption device presented here can be implemented independently in imaging systems, or combined with other image enhancement technologies." A 2x-3x improvement in light sensitivity has been reported:


  1. some IR detectors have already used this principle, I'm thinking about Selex's MESA based photodiode array where the MESA sidewall concentrates more light on the detection junction ...

  2. Hmmm... I can't help thinking that these folks have come up with... a...
    a... gosh, it looks and feels like a microlens!???


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