Nanotechnology: see how spiders

Despite being misunderstood beings, spiders play numerous roles in our life and in nature. And it couldn’t be different for technology. So we see the biotechnologically perfect combination between spiders and sensor nanotechnology. Curious? Come here, come read this post!

Have you ever imagined what it would be like to see through the eyes of spiders? What nanotechnology, sensors and more could be inspired and created from them? Join this post !

And you exclaim: “What big eyes you have!”. And Parajotus refulgens (Salticidae) responds: “It’s to see science better!” Source

On a daily basis, we do not realize how many benefits we have or can have through knowledge about animals.

Sometimes the most unlikely animals bring us great scientific revolutions , technological innovations and a better quality of life , as in the case of spiders .

In research conducted at Harvard University , titled Compact single-shot metalens depth sensors inspired by eyes of jumping spiders , researchers resulted in an advanced depth sensor. guided by the eyes of spiders of the Salticidae family , commonly called jumping spiders or fly-catchers [1].

Why spiders?

Spiders have several heightened senses and certainly one of them is great eyesight . Among arachnids, the Salticidae family of spiders stands out for being able to perceive and differentiate movements, colors, sizes and shapes of visual stimuli [2]. So this is precisely our family in focus!

Even so small, jumping spiders use this depth perception ability for food capture and ballooning (“flying” around).

Their main eyes (the two biggest ones) have multi-layered retinas that passively receive multiple images with different blurs , that is, they decode and understand the distance they are between them and the prey or between them and the place they want to go [ 1].

Gif of a fly pope spider jumping towards the flyAnd what about the sensors?

Well, since spiders can sense the depth of objects because of their eyes, they form multiple images of one or more objects with a different amount of blur and then measure the distance [1].

Salticidae retinal movement in the main eyes. Source

This is what happens, for example, when we take a photo with an object in front and a scene behind, one will be blurred. Or when we zoom in on the microscope at a certain point.

From this feature, a compact depth sensor inspired by the Salticidae was created . 

Through biomimicry (imitation of nature’s functions), this depth sensor combines the technology trend of the moment: metalens (quartz microstructures that can direct light on a wavelength scale) [1;3] and (small) calculations that measure the depth of image blur with the vision ability of jumping spiders [1].

Jumping Spider and Metalens Depth Sensor. Source

But what does all this mean?!

Visual depth sensors rely on a set of methods, such as camera combination, computational algorithms and sometimes active light sources to perform 3D capture and the surrounding scenery. Thus, it also has great complexity and high cost, especially when it comes to active sensors [1].

The big X of the matter is that as these technologies require more work and greater cost, a sensor with metalens (and inspired by jumping spiders) has a lower cost and a lower degree of complexity, not to mention the benefits that we are going to talk about now [1] ;4].

Ah, but the spiders did nothing
I’m so sad, don’t you love me anymore? ( Phidippus carolinensis, Salticidae) Source

Well well! It’s because one of the problems was still being able to find something that would improve metalens and get closer to what the researchers needed. And that’s where SpiderThor came in and hit the hammer!

I am worthy! (Salticidae) Source

In other words, through the good vision and perception of spiders, it is possible to improve photonic nanotechnology and depth sensors, making them lighter more compact , at a lower cost and with greater precision [1].

And the benefits story?

Let’s bring an example closer to you!

If we think of the camera of a ToF cell phone, for example, those cell phones with great cameras that we see/buy, the cell phone cost is usually high, but by applying the sensor technology with metalens, the cell phone’s cost benefit becomes better, in addition to what the camera quality is superior and the material is also cheaper [4].

In summary: Metalens is compact, single-shot, requires little computation, 3 mm in diameter that measures depth at a distance of 10 cm, using less than 700 floating point operations per output pixel [1]. Technology , my dears!

Each little pillar of this is a metalens structure that refracts a specific color to the sensor, for example, from cameras. Source
Meanwhile: Advanced technology! Health! Accessories! Search!

This improved nanotechnology can be implemented in  micro robots , ingestible devices [1] (electronic capsules that are ingested and detect diseases with lower cost/problems and more easily [5]), wearable devices [1] (watches, virtual reality glasses or attached to body parts for disease detection or disease monitoring [5]), cell phone cameras , microscopes and a range of possibilities yet to be discovered or enhanced 

Ingestible devices (capsule) Source
Micro robots Source
Wearable devices (bracelet) Source

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