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uni'wissen 01-2014_ENG

Sebastian Petsch has been working on his dissertation under Prof. Dr. Hans Zappe since 2011. He studied microsystems engineering at the University of Freiburg. He began developing bionic lenses, focusing especially on con- trolling them, in his master’s thesis, which he completed in 2011. He is a research assistant at the Laboratory of Micro-Optics and conducts research on artificial muscles for controlling micro-optic lens systems. Prof. Dr. Hans Zappe earned a degree in electri- cal engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA, and completed his PhD at the University of California, Berkeley, USA. He then conducted research on electronics, integrated optics, and semiconductor lasers, first at the technology corpo- ration IBM and later at the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Solid State Physics in Frei- burg and at the Swiss Center for Electronics and Micro- technology in Zurich. In 2000 he accepted a position at the University of Freiburg as professor of micro-optics and from 2012 on as holder of the Gisela and Erwin Sick Chair Micro-Optics. He established the German Research Foun- dation priority program “Active Micro-Optics” and, with colleagues in Hanover, the collaborative research center “Planar Optronic Systems.” Further Reading Schuhladen, S. / Petsch, S. / Liebetraut, P. / Müller, P. / Zappe, H. (2013): Miniaturized tunable imaging system inspired by the human eye. In: Optics Letters 38 / 20, pp. 3991–3994. Müller, P. / Feuerstein, R. / Zappe, H. (2012): Integrated optofluidic iris. In: IEEE Journal of Microelectromechanical Systems 21 / 5, pp. 1156–1164. Liebetraut, P. / Petsch, S. / Mönch, W. / Zappe, H. (2011): Tunable solid-body elastomer lenses with electromagnetic actuation. In: Applied Optics 50/19, pp. 3268–3274. Visit the research portal Surprising Science for videos and photos of the bionic imaging system: optics with another technology that is being studied in several projects at IMTEK – multispectral analy- sis, which makes minute nuances in color visible. “A system of this kind could be used to detect skin discolorations early on and diagnose cancer more quickly,” says Zappe. Imitating Nature, Improving Technology The imaging system is bionic because it is a technology inspired by nature. It is not designed to optimize humans, even though it could become more powerful than the human eye in the future. “Bionics has nothing to do with cyborgs,” clarifies Zappe. He grew up in the USA in the 70s and still remembers the television series The Six Million Dollar Man with the actor Lee Majors. He played an astronaut who had received several prostheses after an accident. This series talked a lot about “bionics,” but Zappe’s research has another aim: “We are by no means interested in developing eye prostheses or optimizing humans.” Building the imaging system into cameras is not one of the principle aims of the project either. “The first thing is to imitate the natural system. We want to demonstrate the interaction between flexible lenses and irises and the development of an entirely new imaging technology,” explains Zappe. At the same time, the lens system illustrates the process of improving optical inventions. For example, the prototype did not remain stable long enough – the liquids in the chamber gradually evaporated. Schuhladen is working on solving such problems at the moment. The team hopes to finish an imaging system for demonstration purposes by the end of 2014. “Potential areas of application for this system we see include camera technology, medicine, and microscopy,” says Zappe, “but the most interesting thing about it is the individual components.” Stefan Schuhladen has been working on his PhD at the Laboratory of Micro- Optics since 2012. He studied microsystems engineering at the University of Freiburg. While working on his master’s degree, he spent a year studying biomedical engineer- ing at the University of Michigan, USA, within the context of the cooperation program “Micro Alliance” and with funding from a Fulbright scholarship. He completed his master’s degree in 2011. In his dissertation, which he is completing in the German Research Foundation priority program “Active Micro-Optics,” he is focusing primarily on optofluidic micro-apertures and apertures inspired by the iris of the human eye. Photos: Mathilde Bessert-Nettelbeck 31