Biologically Inspired Ultrathin Arrayed Camera Captures Super-Resolution Images

Ultrathin Camera

The ultrathin arrayed camera. Credit: Professor Ki-Hun Jeong, KAIST

Ultrathin but fully packaged high-resolution camera.

The unique structures of biological vision systems in nature inspired scientists to design ultra-compact imaging systems. A research group led by Professor Ki-Hun Jeong have made an ultra-compact camera that captures high-contrast and high-resolution images. Fully packaged with micro-optical elements such as inverted micro-lenses, multilayered pinhole arrays, and gap spacers on the image sensor, the camera boasts a total track length of 740 μm and a field of view of 73°.

Inspired by the eye structures of the paper wasp species Xenos peckii, the research team completely suppressed optical noise between micro-lenses while reducing camera thickness. The camera has successfully demonstrated high-contrast clear array images acquired from tiny microlenses. To further enhance the image quality of the captured image, the team combined the arrayed images into one image through super-resolution imaging.

Super Resolution Imaging

Super-resolution imaging by array images. Credit: Professor Ki-Hun Jeong, KAIST

An insect’s compound eye has superior visual characteristics, such as a wide viewing angle, high motion sensitivity, and a large depth of field while maintaining a small volume of visual structure with a small focal length. Among them, the eyes of Xenos peckii and an endoparasite found on paper wasps have hundreds of photoreceptors in a single lens unlike conventional compound eyes. In particular, the eye structures of an adult Xenos peckii exhibit hundreds of photoreceptors on an individual eyelet and offer engineering inspiration for ultrathin cameras or imaging applications because they have higher visual acuity than other compound eyes.

For instance, Xenos peckii’s eye-inspired cameras provide a 50 times higher spatial resolution than those based on arthropod eyes. In addition, the effective image resolution of the Xenos peckii’s eye can be further improved using the image overlaps between neighboring eyelets. This unique structure offers higher visual resolution than other insect eyes.

The team achieved high-contrast and super-resolution imaging through a novel arrayed design of micro-optical elements comprising multilayered aperture arrays and inverted micro-lens arrays directly stacked over an image sensor. This optical component was integrated with a complementary metal oxide semiconductor image sensor.

This is first demonstration of super-resolution imaging which acquires a single integrated image with high contrast and high resolving power reconstructed from high-contrast array images. It is expected that this ultrathin arrayed camera can be applied for further developing mobile devices, advanced surveillance vehicles, and endoscopes.

Professor Jeong said, “This research has led to technological advances in imaging technology. We will continue to strive to make significant impacts on multidisciplinary research projects in the fields of microtechnology and nanotechnology, seeking inspiration from natural photonic structures.”

Reference: “Biologically inspired ultrathin arrayed camera for high-contrast and high-resolution imaging” by Kisoo Kim, Kyung-Won Jang, Jae-Kwan Ryu & Ki-Hun Jeong, 27 February 2020, Light: Science & Applications.
DOI: 10.1038/s41377-020-0261-8

This work was featured in Light Science & Applications last month and was supported by the National Research Foundation (NRF) and the Ministry of Health and Welfare (MOHW) of Korea.

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