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Soft matter micro-eye

... working with softmatter only.


Nature features abundant examples of curved and elastic components. The human eye is one of her most fascinating and accomplished ‘optical systems’ showing how Nature succeeds in exploiting the potential of soft-matter.

mikroiris vor augeThis project aims at revealing the potential of soft materials for technical optics. On the basis of our past research on soft-matter components, we develop an artificial eye that is based on the structure and functionality of the human (single aperture) eye. This model imaging system consists of an optofluidic micro-iris, a polymer solid body lens and a high-resolution imaging sensor. It is designed to deliver high quality images and videos of different directions (through eye rotation) and positions in space (through refocusing and adapting the depth of focus) in real time. 


irischip with micropostsWhen using polymers for the lens and liquids for the micro-iris, novel integrated actuation mechanisms become possible. These make conventional external actuation obsolete and reduce the size of the model considerably. The iris, for instance, is solely actuated by electrostatic forces and does not need extra movable parts; the lens is deformed by artificial muscles, so-called liquid crystal rubbers (LCRs). Not only does this allow real-time focal length tuning but it also enables us to correct aberrations accurately at the same time. 

In addition, the purely electric driving mechanisms of both iris and lens can be joined into an intelligent electronic control unit. The system can thus adapt autonomously to changes of environmental conditions by refocusing, by tuning the depth of focus or by opening or shutting the iris according to the incoming light. In short, it imitates the natural reflexes of the human eye.

Such an electronically tunable artificial micro-eye is useful for movable eyeball cameras, which allow extremely wide-angle views. Other fields of application lie in machine vision for process monitoring and quality management as well as in robot vision.


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