A new lens invented at the Ohio State University combines the focusing ability of a human eye with the wide-angle view of an insect eye to capture images with depth. The result could assist surgical imaging that enables doctors to see inside the human body like never before.
“Our eye can change focus. An insect eye is made of many small optical components that can’t change focus but give a wide view. We can combine the two,” explained Yi Zhao, associate professor of biomedical engineering and ophthalmology at Ohio State. “What we get is a wide-angle lens with depth of field.”
That is to say, the lens shows a wide view, but still offers a sense of human-like depth perception: as close objects come into focus, far away objects look blurry.
Prototype’s fluid mimics vitreous and aqueous humors
Zhao’s prototype lens is made of a flexible transparent polymer filled with a gelatinous fluid similar to fluid inside the human eye. As fluid is pumped into and out of the lens, different parts of it expand and contract to change the overall shape—and thus, the direction and focus—of the lens. This shape-changing strategy is somewhat similar to the way muscles in the human eye change the shape of the lens tissue in order to focus.
To make the design more appropriate for use in electronics, the engineers created an otherwise identical shape-changing lens from an electrically active polymer, which expands and contracts based on electrical signals. That lens has undergone initial testing, and the engineers have submitted a paper on it to an academic journal.
New eye technology could aid laparoscopy
With further development, the technology could be useful in laparoscopes for medical testing and surgery. With laparoscopy, doctors insert tiny wide-angle cameras into the patient’s body in order to see as much tissue as they can without cutting the patient open. But such lenses don’t offer a sense of depth: they show all objects—both near and far—in focus at all times. This poses a problem for doctors; if they mistake a close object for a far away one, they could accidentally graze healthy tissue with the scope or surgical instruments.
“With our lens, doctors could get the wide-angle view they need, and still be able to judge the distance between the lens and tissue. They could place instruments with more confidence, and remove a tumor more easily, for example,” Zhao said.
The university’s Technology Commercialization and Knowledge Transfer Office will license the technology to industry.
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Excerpted with permission from PD&D News – http://www.pddnet.com/news/2013/09/lens-combines-human-insect-vision?et_cid=3488123&et_rid=45583980&type=cta
Tom Cockley is president of Gulden Ophthalmics and is the third generation of the nearly 75-year-old visionary company that brings innovative, time-saving, utilitarian products to vision and health care professionals.