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Cymraeg

Cardiff University engineers give industry a moth’s eye view

22 November 2007

When moths fly at night, their eyes need to capture all the light available. To do this, certain species have evolved nanoscopic structures on the surface of their eyes which allow almost no light to reflect off the surface and hence to escape.

Now scientists at MicroBridge, a project at Cardiff University’s Manufacturing Engineering Centre (MEC), have adopted the model to create an industrial lens for use in a low light environment.

The structures on the surface of the new lens are less than 100 nanometres in height (a nanometre is one millionth of a millimetre). They need to be smaller than the wavelength of light to avoid disrupting the light as it enters the lens.

The tiny features of the lens mould were created using the MEC’s Focused Ion Beam. The beam uses highly charged atomic particles to machine materials in microscopic detail.

Dr Robert Hoyle of the MEC said: "This was a particularly complicated challenge. Not only did the lenses have to be of very precise curvature but the nanoscopic structures on the lens surfaces had to be smaller than the wavelength of light so as to smooth out the sharp refractive index change as the light strikes the surface of the lens. This smoothing of the refractive index reduces the reflectiveness of the lens thus allowing it to capture more light. The end result has a number of highly practical uses for industry."

The research team is now looking at using the lens in optoelectronics and photovoltaic applications in semiconductors, including solar cells, where loss of light is a major problem. The lens also has potential uses in fibre optics, sensors and medical diagnostic devices.

ENDS

Notes to Editors:

Cardiff University

Cardiff University is recognised in independent government assessments as one of Britain’s leading teaching and research universities. Founded by Royal Charter in 1883, the University today combines impressive modern facilities and a dynamic approach to teaching and research. The University’s breadth of expertise in research and research-led teaching encompasses: the humanities; the natural, physical, health, life and social sciences; engineering and technology; preparation for a wide range of professions; and a longstanding commitment to lifelong learning. Cardiff is a member of the Russell Group of the UK’s leading research universities.

Visit the University website at: www.cardiff.ac.uk

MEC

The Manufacturing Engineering Centre is one of the most advanced centres for manufacturing engineering in Europe. It is renowned as a multi-award-winning centre for design, development and manufacturing engineering. It employs around 100 people and has worked with several thousand industrial partners on more than 3,000 projects in the last nine years. It is the first autonomous research centre to be created by Cardiff University. MicroBridge is a £7.8M programme funded by the Welsh Assembly Government and the Department of Trade and Industry.

Further Information:

For further information, please contact:

Frank D Marsh
Marketing Director
The Manufacturing Engineering Centre [MEC]
Cardiff University
029 208 70019
E-mail: marshfd@cardiff.ac.uk

Stephen Rouse,
Public Relations Office,
Cardiff University.
029 2087 5596
e-mail: RouseS@cardiff.ac.uk

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