Received: by alpheratz.cpm.aca.mmu.ac.uk id DAA00416 (8.6.9/5.3[ref email@example.com] for cpm.aca.mmu.ac.uk from firstname.lastname@example.org); Fri, 24 Aug 2001 03:34:07 +0100 From: <email@example.com> To: firstname.lastname@example.org Date: Thu, 23 Aug 2001 21:38:12 -0500 Content-type: text/plain; charset=US-ASCII Content-transfer-encoding: 7BIT Subject: All the better to see you with, No, not wolves, but starfish (crosspost) Message-ID: <3B8577C4.16679.E167B2@localhost> In-reply-to: <F38lkHT9UaEI8RvTxjo00007102@hotmail.com> X-mailer: Pegasus Mail for Win32 (v3.12c) Sender: email@example.com Precedence: bulk Reply-To: firstname.lastname@example.org
> At least as far back as Roger Bacon in the 1200s, humans have
> attempted to grind better, more accurate lenses for glasses and
> microscopes. Lenses continue to play an integral role in modern
> telecommunications, from sending coded laser transmissions over fiber
> optic cables to microscopically incising circuitry on silicon chips.
> But all of this dims in comparison to evolution, which has endowed a
> simple invertebrate with the most accurate lenses yet discovered. And
> the potential of these lenses tech, once applied, could be enormous.
> Scientists from Lucent Technologies' Bell Labs have discovered that
> chalk-like calcite crystals in the skeletons of marine creatures known
> as brittlestars have a remarkable dual function, acting as armor as
> well as optical receptors for an all-seeing compound eye.
> They say that studies of this novel multifunctional biomaterial may
> lead to better-designed optical elements for telecommunications
> The surprising discovery that brittlestars use calcitic crystals to
> act as optical detectors, in addition to providing skeletal support,
> was made by an international multidisciplinary team of researchers,
> comprising scientists from Bell Labs, the Weizmann Institute of
> Science in Israel and the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles
> County, and is described in an article in Nature ["Biophysics:
> Dual-function biomaterial in focus", Alexei Tkachenko and Joanna
> Aizenberg of Bell Labs, Steve Weiner and Lia Addadi of the Weizmann
> Institute of Science and Gordon Hendler of the Natural History Museum
> of Los Angeles County, Nature 412, 819-822, 23 August 2001] (Refer
> http://www.nature.com/nature/links/010823/010823-1.html for a
> "This is an excellent example of something we can learn from nature,"
> said Federico Capasso, physical research vice president at Bell Labs.
> "These tiny calcite crystals are nearly perfect optical microlenses,
> much better than any we manufacture today."
> Brittlestars, also known as serpent stars, are marine invertebrates
> that usually have five thin long arms emanating from a small,
> disk-shaped body. They belong to the phylum of echinoderms, which also
> includes starfish, sea urchins and other related classes of marine
> The analysis of bony structures in the arms of the brittlestar
> Ophiocoma wendtii showed the presence of a regular array of spherical
> microstructures that look like lenses. Experiments subsequently showed
> that these microstructures, which are absent in closely-related but
> light-indifferent species of brittlestars, were indeed sophisticated
> optical elements that have the optimal design for focusing light.
> The lenses focus light about 5 microns below their surface. Nerve
> bundles running through the skeleton underneath the lenses are thought
> to pick up the light signal. Acting together, thousands of calcite
> crystals form a kind of primitive compound eye that covers much of the
> organism's body, and researchers think this must be useful in
> detecting and escaping from predators.
> The calcite microlenses compensate for birefringence and spherical
> aberration - physical effects common in lenses that distort light -
> and scientists hope to mimic nature's success and design microlenses
> based on the brittlestar model. Such biomimetic lenses may prove
> useful as components of optical networks, and in chip design, where
> they could potentially improve optical lithography techniques.
> "Biomimetics builds on nature's expertise," said John Rogers, director
> of nanotechnology research at Bell Labs. "In this case, a relatively
> simple organism has a solution to a very complex problem in optics and
> materials design."
> In an accompanying commentary in the same issue of Nature, independent
> expert Roy Sambles of the University of Exeter, UK, wrote, "Once again
> we find that nature foreshadowed our technical development."
> "I have always been fascinated with nature's ability to perfect
> materials," said Joanna Aizenberg, the Bell Labs scientist who led the
> international research team of materials scientists, physicists,
> chemists and biologists. "The more you study biological organisms the
> more you realize how much there is to be learned from them."
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