Scientists in Finland have created an artificial iris that reacts to light the same way as the human eye.
Developed by the Smart Photonic Materials research group from Tampere University of Technology (TUT), this breakthrough could mean new developments in photography, and, eventually biomedicine.
Anthropomorphically speaking, the iris is a tissue that, by changing the size of the pupil, can regulate the amount of light entering the eye—much like the aperture in a camera.
But the shutter on the back of your smartphone or in a DSLR typically requires complicated circuitry and light-detection systems to tell it when to open or close.
To simplify that process, Arri Priimägi and his team of researchers developed an intriguing solution.
“An autonomous iris that can independently adjust its shape and the size of its aperture in response to the amount of incoming light is an innovation in the field of light-deformable materials,” Priimägi, associate professor of TUT’s Laboratory of Chemistry and Bioengineering, said in a statement.
Joined by Piotr Wasylczyk from the University of Warsaw and Radosław Kaczmarek from Wrocław Medical University, Priimägi created something resembling a contact lens—with a center that opens and closes “according to the amount of light that hits it.”
Most importantly, though, is the device’s ability to function autonomously, free from power sources and external light detection schemes.
This research, according to Priimägi, was inspired by Kaczmarek, an ophthalmologist with an eye (pun intended) toward using this tech in the treatment of iris defects.
“The road to practical applications is long, but our next goal is to make the iris function also in an aqueous environment,” Priimägi said. “Another important goal will be to increase the sensitivity of the device to make it react to smaller changes in the amount of incoming light.
“These developments will be the next steps towards possible biomedical applications,” he added.
Postdoctoral researcher Hao Zeng and doctoral student Owies Wani also contributed to the artificial iris research, which was recently published in the Nature Communications journal.
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