Keyword Tag Sort by


Categories: Photonics Mantis shrimps Vision Light Vision systems Polarization Polarization Vision

Mantis shrimps could show us the way to a better DVD

The remarkable eyes of a marine crustacean could inspire the next generation of DVD and CD players, according to a new study from the University of Bristol published today in Nature Photonics.

The mantis shrimps in the study are found on the Great Barrier Reef in Australia and have the most complex vision systems known to science.  They can see in twelve colours (humans see in only three) and can distinguish between different forms of polarized light.

Special light-sensitive cells in mantis shrimp eyes act as quarter-wave plates – which can rotate the plane of the oscillations (the polarization) of a light wave as it travels through it.  This capability makes it possible for mantis shrimps to convert linearly polarized light to circularly polarized light and vice versa.  Manmade quarter-wave plates perform this essential function in CD and DVD players and in circular polarizing filters for cameras. 

However, these artificial devices only tend to work well for one colour of light while the natural mechanism in the mantis shrimp’s eyes works almost perfectly across the whole visible spectrum – from near-ultra violet to infra-red. 

Dr Nicholas Roberts, lead author of the Nature Photonics paper said: “Our work reveals for the first time the unique design and mechanism of the quarter-wave plate in the mantis shrimp’s eye.  It really is exceptional – out-performing anything we humans have so far been able to create.”

Exactly why the mantis shrimp needs such exquisite sensitivity to circularly polarized light isn’t clear.  However, polarization vision is used by animals for sexual signalling or secret communication that avoids the attention of other animals, especially predators.  It could also assist in the finding and catching of prey by improving the clarity of images underwater.  If this mechanism in the mantis shrimp provides an evolutionary advantage, it would be easily selected for as it only requires small changes to existing properties of the cell in the eye.

“What’s particularly exciting is how beautifully simple it is,” Dr Roberts continued.  “This natural mechanism, comprised of cell membranes rolled into tubes, completely outperforms synthetic designs.

“It could help us make better optical devices in the future using liquid crystals that have been chemically engineered to mimic the properties of the cells in the mantis shrimp’s eye.” 

This wouldn’t be the first time humans have looked to the natural world for new ideas, for example the lobster’s compound eye recently inspired the design of an X-ray detector for an astronomical telescope.

The mantis shrimp research was conducted at the University of Bristol’s School of Biological Sciences in collaboration with colleagues at UMBC, USA and the University of Queensland, Australia.  

Paper:
A biological quarter-wave retarder with excellent achromaticity in the visible wavelength region by NW Roberts, T-H Chiou, NJ Marshall and TW Cronin Nature Photonics

Contact: Cherry Lewis - Research Communications Manager, Tel: +44 (0)117 928 8086, Email: cherry.lewis@bristol.ac.uk

Source: University of Bristol

Related News:

Light nanofilter system worth its weight in gold and silver 28 October 2013, 04:37
In a breakthrough described by one international expert as ‘a wonderful piece of lateral...

World first treatment helps with lazy eye 29 April 2013, 06:18
Playing Tetris under controlled conditions may be a cure for lazy eye in both children and...

Researchers Trap Light, Improve Laser Potential of MEH-PPV Polymer 18 March 2013, 07:59
Researchers from North Carolina State University have come up with a low-cost way to enhance a...

Alcon announces EU approval of Jetrea®, first and only eye drug to... 18 March 2013, 04:28
Jetrea represents a breakthrough for patients with vitreomacular traction (VMT), a...

Speeding up electronics to light frequencies 6 December 2012, 04:37
New results on the interaction of femto- and attosecond light pulses with a solid insulator hold...

Discovery of a Revolutionary Type of Gel 7 November 2012, 05:51
07.11.12 - Controlling and modifying at will the transparency, electrical properties, and...

Penn Researchers Create a Universal Map of Vision in the Human Brain 4 October 2012, 12:36
New Technology Confirms "Timeless" Diagram Drafted by WW1 Neurologist.PHILADELPHIA — Nearly 100...

Hopkins-Led Study Suggests Monoclonal Antibody Fragment Treatments... 2 October 2012, 12:56
Small, limited study with ranibizumab did not directly assess driving safety or skills.The...

From Sunlight To Hydrogen 26 September 2012, 02:35
Scientists at the Helmholtz Zentrum Berlin successfully test new hybrid material for use in...

New data for Novartis drug Lucentis® confirms long-term efficacy... 5 September 2012, 08:47
REPAIR study shows an average of three Lucentis® injections improve visual acuity in...