Trilobite eyes inspired scientists to create camera with record depth of field

(ORDO NEWS) — Scientists used the structure of the compound eye of a trilobite species to create metalins. Combining nanophotonics approaches and an artificial intelligence algorithm, the researchers developed a camera with a depth of field ranging from three centimeters to 1.7 kilometers.

Trilobites are extinct marine arthropods that inhabited the oceans 250-543 million years ago. These invertebrates had complex compound eyes made up of thousands of independent cells, each with its own cornea, a calcite mineral lens that replaced the lens, and light-sensitive cells.

Such eyes provided trilobites with a huge range of vision. The record holder was Dalmanitina socialis , the owner of bifocal facets, each of which contained two lenses that refract light at different angles. This allowed the trilobite to see both prey swimming up close and predators approaching from afar at the same time.

Inspired by the structure of the Dalmanitina socialis eye , researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (USA) have created a miniature camera with a bifocal lens and a record-breaking depth of field.

To create the camera, the scientists made a set of tiny metalens, ultra-thin flat glass films, on the surface of which nanoscale pillars are formed. The shape and orientation of the columns focused the light in such a way that the metalens displayed near and far objects at the same time.

The nanopillars deflected light with right and left circular polarization in different directions. Some beams passed a longer refraction path on the nanopillars, others a shorter one. The focus into which the light fell depended on this.

However, objects at an average distance from the camera remained out of focus. To correct this defect, scientists used a neural network that improved the clarity and color reproduction of objects located between the near and far focus of the metalens.

This made it possible to obtain clear images throughout the more than a kilometer range captured by the camera.

Such cameras with a huge depth of field, combining photonic nanotechnology, photography and artificial intelligence algorithms, will create highly detailed images.

For example, they will make it possible to capture cityscapes or highly distributed groups of living organisms, and will also be useful for other applications that require clear photographs of both close and distant objects.

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