The researchers from Rice University were inspired by the skin of cephalopods like octopus and squid, which they believe, can detect colour directly through their skin. The sensor they have created uses complementary metal-oxide semi-conductor (CMOS) technology and can fit on a self contained chip.
“Today’s colour filtering mechanisms often involve materials that are not CMOS-compatible, but this new approach has advantages beyond on-chip integration,” said Naomi Halas from Rice University.
It is also more compact and simple and more closely mimics the way living organisms see colours, Halas added.
The sensor is a result of a $6 million research programme funded by the US Office of Naval Research that aimed to mimic cephalopod skin using metamaterials – compounds that blur the line between material and machine.
Cephalopods like octopus and squid are masters of camouflage but they are also colour blind.
Based on this hypothesis, Rice University student Bob Zheng designed a photonic system that could detect coloured light.
“Bob has created a biomimetic detector that emulates what we are hypothesising the squid skin sees,” Halas added.
The research was published in the journal Advanced Materials.