KAIST researchers develop an ultra-thin camera with an insect eye structure

Scientists from KAIST have announced the development of an ultra-thin camera that uses an insect eye structure for high-resolution imaging. The camera uses a unique visual structure that simulates the eyes of insects providing a thinner profile for the lens and wider viewing angle than any commercial camera. The researchers believe that the features will allow the camera to be applied to fields that require various small cameras like mobile, surveillance, medical equipment, and reconnaissance equipment.

To solve the problem of thick lenses, the team created a lens that mimics the structure of the Xenos Pecky insect and combined it with an image sensor to develop an ultra-thin camera. In the insect, pigment cells block light between lenses and result in image formation in each lens. Structure of the lens the scientists designed helps it to obtain high-contrast and high-resolution images by preventing optical crosstalk between them.

Researchers were able to create the light-blocking structure and make it very thin by using a photolithography process blocking the optical crosstalk between lenses. To minimize the thickness of the lens, its direction was arranged in reverse to mimic the direction of the image sensor. When complete, the final product was 0.74 millimeters thick.

Researchers say that thickness is about half the thickness of a 10 won coin. The sensor takes multiple images and synthesizes them into a single higher resolution image. According to the researchers, the lens has commercial viability.

Eventual commercialization options include smartphone cameras, surveillance equipment, and potential medical equipment uses. The team does not indicate how far away they may be for commercialization of the lens.