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October 27, 2009

Eyes of Mantis Shrimp Shed Light on DVD/CD Players, According to Research Performed at UMBC

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: B. Rose Huber
Telephone: 410-455-8117
Email: brhuber@umbc.edu

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Baltimore – The eyes of mantis shrimp may improve the next generations of DVD and CD players, according to new research conducted at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) and published in the November issue of Nature Photonics.

Lead researcher Nicholas Roberts from the University of Bristol and colleagues from UMBC found that eyes of mantis shrimp, marine crustaceans, contain an optical structure that works almost perfectly across the whole visible spectrum. “Our work reveals, for the first time, the unique design and mechanism of the quarter-wave plate in the mantis shrimp’s eye,” Roberts said. “It is really exceptional and outperforms anything humans have been able to create.”
Mantis shrimp have the ability to not only distinguish between different forms of polarized light but also convert linearly polarized light to circular and vice versa. Their visual systems have special light-sensitive cells that act as quarter-wave retarders. While man-made plates also perform this function, they only work well for one color of light.

Roberts spent a month working at UMBC last summer in collaboration with Thomas Cronin, professor of biological sciences, and alumnus Tsyr-Huei Chiou, Ph.D. ‘08. The research also involved Justin Marshall of the University of Queensland, Australia. With the high-speed computer systems in Cronin’s laboratory at UMBC, what would have taken Roberts five days only took him 30 minutes. This allowed the researchers to change the parameters more easily and speed up the analysis by a factor of 100 or more. Cronin focused on the biological elements of the project while Roberts utilized a mathematical approach and his knowledge of optics.

“Biological inspiration has been put to use for many optical devices,” said Cronin. “The optics we discovered in the mantis shrimp eye outperforms any artificial optical device and can serve as a model for building better optics for use in devices such as DVD players, optical displays and other photonic applications.”

The unique design and structure of the eyes of mantis shrimp means that it performs well at all visible wavelengths, ranging from blue to red – a task that has eluded man-made designs. The researchers hope that optical designers will now be able to copy the design to create man-made wave plates with much better performance than currently available.

Posted by brhuber at October 27, 2009 11:23 AM