Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have gone back to the source for inspiration with their new artificial lens, creating a so-called "shape-shifting" lens that mimics the way a human eye works. Like other liquid lenses, theirs uses a glass-oil-water interface, but it also adds a a ring of polymer gel around the lens that acts like a muscle, changing the focal length as it expands and contracts. What's more, the gel apparently works simply by reacting to environmental changes, like a rise in temperature or change in acidity, allowing for both smaller and more power-efficient imaging devices than other similar lenses. One example the researchers give is an implantable lens that could react to protein changes in the human body. Not quite Fantastic Voyage territory, but we'll take what we can get.

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Researchers create human-like "shape-shifting" lens