Blow Fly Lighting

Blow Fly Eyes

Blow Fly Eyes
Top: Under Normal Light Before Fluorescent Coating
Bottom Under UV Light After Fluorescent Coating
Image: Appl. Phys. Lett. 105, 103703 (2014)

Blow fly compound eyes are adapted to receiving light from a wide field of view. The arrangement is a model for man-made wide field sensors. Can an eye that receives light from a wide angle be used to transmit light in a wide angle?

To test this, a group of engineers* removed the corneal lenses of blow flies, mounted them on brass and coated them with a fluorescent material. They excited the coating with UV light and measured the directional intensity of emission. Compared to a flat surface, the coated blow fly eye illuminated a wide angle much more uniformly.

Money Quotes:

Disgusted even though most people are with flies, we do not advocate the mass harvesting of flies to obtain corneas to make light sources of the kind we have investigated. Instead, an industrially scalable bioreplication technique can be used to make multiple replicas of just a few corneas, and the replicas can be coated with one or more fluorescent materials.*


We hope that our initial demonstration will pave the way for the development of bioreplicated light-emitting and light-detecting photonic devices.*

*Raúl J. Martín-Palma1, Amy E. Miller, Drew P. Pulsifer and Akhlesh Lakhtakia. (2014) Angular distribution of light emission from compound-eye cornea with conformal fluorescent coating. Appl. Phys. Lett. 105:103703.

About jjneal

Jonathan Neal is an Associate Professor of Entomology at Purdue University and author of the textbook, Living With Insects (2010). This blog is a forum to communicate about the intersection of insects with people and policy. This is a personal blog. The opinions and materials posted here are those of the author and are in no way connected with those of my employer.
This entry was posted in Biomaterials, by jjneal, Taxonomy. Bookmark the permalink.

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