Developed by University of Wisconsin-Madison Electrical and Computer Engineering Assistant Professor Hongrui Jiang, Biomedical Engineering Professor David Beebe, postdoctoral researcher Liang Dong and doctoral student Abhiskek Agarwal, and inspired by the natural compound eye, “smart” variable focal length liquid microlenses incorporate hydrogels that respond to physical, chemical or biological stimuli and actuate lens function. In this artist’s rendering of a smart liquid microlens, environmental stimuli (shown as yellow rays and tiny spheres) trigger a hydrogel (shown as a yellow ring edged in black) to swell or contract. As a result, water below the lens (center) either bulges or bows and the lens becomes divergent or convergent. Such smart microlenses could advance lab-on-a-chip technologies, optical imaging, medical diagnostics and bio-optical microfluidic systems. The researchers, who are patenting the technology through the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF), described it in the cover story of the Aug. 3, 2006 issue of the journal Nature. Grants from the UW-Madison Graduate School, the Department of Homeland Security-funded National Center for Food Protection and Defense at the University of Minnesota, and from WARF partially funded the research.
Image credit: Image prepared by Ryan Martinson, Silverline Studio
Image date: 2006
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