In nature, arthropods have a remarkably sophisticated class of imaging systems, with a hemispherical geometry, a wideangle field of view, low aberrations, high acuity to motion and an infinite depth of field. There are great interests in building systems with similar geometries and properties due to numerous potential applications. However, the established semiconductor sensor technologies and optics are essentially planar, which experience great challenges in building such systems with hemispherical, compound apposition layouts. With the recent advancement of stretchable optoelectronics, we have successfully developed strategies to build a fully functional artificial apposition compound eye camera by combining optics, materials and mechanics principles. The strategies start with fabricating stretchable arrays of thin silicon photodetectors and elastomeric optical elements in planar geometries, which are then precisely aligned and integrated, and elastically transformed to hemispherical shapes. This imaging device demonstrates nearly full hemispherical shape (about 160 degrees), with densely packed artificial ommatidia. The number of ommatidia (180) is comparable to those of the eyes of fire ants and bark beetles. We have illustrated key features of operation of compound eyes through experimental imaging results and quantitative ray-tracing-based simulations. The general strategies shown in this development could be applicable to other compound eye devices, such as those inspired by moths and lacewings (refracting superposition eyes), lobster and shrimp (reflecting superposition eyes), and houseflies (neural superposition eyes). © 2014 SPIE.
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