The focal length of a lens means that a camera has to have a certain thickness - or so we might think. Insect eyes show that this need not be the case: A camera chip based on the compound-eye principle can be used for person recognition and is as thin as paper.
If people were insects, books on optics would certainly look different. The camera illustrated as the technical equivalent next to a cross-section of the eye with just one lens, one iris and one retina would not be of the conventional type. A compound camera would have many hundreds of individual eyes. Each light-sensitive unit, consisting of a lens and a photocell, would capture a narrow segment of the environment. All the images together form the complete picture. An insect’s compound eye will never achieve a particularly high optical resolution, but the principle according to which it registers images does possess some advantages, and if these were incorporated in a camera it would be very flat and could cover a wide field of view.
It was precisely these advantages which inspired research scientists at the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Optics and Precision Engineering IOF to develop their ultra-flat camera system. “Our latest prototypes are thinner than 0.4 millimeters,” emphasizes Andreas Bräuer, who is in charge of the Microoptics unit in Jena. “You can gain a real sense of how thin that is by picking up three sheets of carbon paper between your fingers.” Cameras incorporating conventional “human-eye” optics - such as those used in mobile phones - are at best no thinner than seven millimeters.
Johannes Ehrlenspiel | alfa
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Researchers from the Department of Atomically Resolved Dynamics of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg, the University of Hamburg and the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) outstation in the city have developed a new method to watch biomolecules at work. This method dramatically simplifies starting enzymatic reactions by mixing a cocktail of small amounts of liquids with protein crystals. Determination of the protein structures at different times after mixing can be assembled into a time-lapse sequence that shows the molecular foundations of biology.
The functions of biomolecules are determined by their motions and structural changes. Yet it is a formidable challenge to understand these dynamic motions.
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Researchers from the Department of Atomically Resolved Dynamics of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg, the University of Potsdam (both in Germany) and the University of Toronto (Canada) have pieced together a detailed time-lapse movie revealing all the major steps during the catalytic cycle of an enzyme. Surprisingly, the communication between the protein units is accomplished via a water-network akin to a string telephone. This communication is aligned with a ‘breathing’ motion, that is the expansion and contraction of the protein.
This time-lapse sequence of structures reveals dynamic motions as a fundamental element in the molecular foundations of biology.
Two research teams have succeeded simultaneously in measuring the long-sought Thorium nuclear transition, which enables extremely precise nuclear clocks. TU Wien (Vienna) is part of both teams.
If you want to build the most accurate clock in the world, you need something that "ticks" very fast and extremely precise. In an atomic clock, electrons are...
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