The peacock mantis shrimp has one of the most complicated visual systems of any animal. It can detect circular polarized light (like the light that creates stereo views in 3-D movies) and distinguish it from linear polarized light. This provides these "sea locusts" with an edge for recognizing different types of coral, prey species (which are often transparent or semi-transparent), or predators.
The eye of the mantis shrimp has led an international team of researchers to develop a two-part waveplate that could improve CD, DVD, blu-ray and holographic technology, creating even higher definition and larger storage density.
A waveplate is an optical device, essentially a transparent slab, that alters the polarization state of a light wave traveling through it because of birefringent- double refraction. Calcite, which is a mineral sometimes used as a waveplate, is birefringent.
Most waveplates are made from minerals such as quartz, calcite or birefringent polymers. In some cases, to create the range and transparency required, two different materials are stacked or joined, but this type of construction sometimes delaminates, coming apart at the seams.
A team of engineers from the National Taipei University of Technology and Lakhtakia developed a method to produce special multilayered materials, similar to the lens in the peacock mantis shrimp, that are suitable for waveplates in the visual light spectrum and cannot delaminate because they are manufactured as one piece.
The researchers report that "the fabrication technique of the periodically multilayered structures is a workhorse technique in the thin-film industry, does not require expensive lithography equipment and is compatible with … technology commonplace in electronics and optoelectronics industries."
The researchers report their work in the current online issue of Nature Communications.
The National Taipei University of Technology, the National Science Council of the Republic of China and the Charles Godfrey Binder Endowment at Penn State supported this research.
Image credit: Jens Petersen, via Wikimedia Commons