How tiny eyes inspire technology





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Published on Jan 18, 2012

In the first of this microscopic video series from Cambridge University, Dr Chris Forman shows us the eye of a beetle and the eye of a fruit fly and explains how they have inspired technology.

Under the Microscope is a collection of videos produced by Cambridge University that show glimpses of the natural and man-made world in stunning close-up. You can see the whole series here: http://bit.ly/A6bwCE

Dr Forman:
"Nature has found remarkable ways of using small amounts of energy to combine common elements such as carbon, nitrogen, oxygen and hydrogen into fascinating and complex assemblies like these insects shown here. If we could do the same in our manufacturing processes then perhaps we could recycle our products more easily and we wouldn't use as much energy processing large lumps of aluminium, concrete and plastic. My research into biomaterials tries to learn from nature how to combine the same basic materials into a wide range of structures that perhaps, one day, may be used in all kinds of products from food to factories!"

Size of these images:

μm = micron (one thousandth of a millimetre)

Beetle eye: each individual lens is 12 μm (the thickness of cling film), the entire eye is about 750 μm across (thickness of 5 sheets of paper) and the entire image is about 240 μm across (really thick bit of human hair).

Fruit fly eye: Again each lens is about 10 μm (thickness of cling film), and the entire eye is about 200-300 μm (3 sheets of paper). The total distance across the image is about 115 μm across (thickness of a human hair).

More info:

More images:

Dr Forman's profile:

Thanks to Dr Bill O'Neill and Dr Paul Barker.

Department of Engineering:

Music by Joe Snape:

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