Imaging system from University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign has vertically stacked photodetectors that can sense color and polarization information simultaneously.


  • Accurate
  • High-definition
  • Organic


  • Cameras
  • Medical imaging
  • Surveillance

UN Sustainable Development Goals Addressed

  • Goal 3: Good Health & Wellbeing

  • Goal 9: Industry Innovation & Infrastructure

The Challenge

Typical cameras are unable to capture the many different types of light that some researchers need for scientific imaging. Phone cameras and other digital cameras work well for capturing a photo with many colors and dimensions but do not accurately capture the wavelengths of the light. Designing a camera to capture additional information such as different types of light and their associated wavelengths, requires bulky components, making it less portable.

Innovation Details

The imaging system, also called the “MantisCam,” is a small, easy-to-use camera for filming underwater life. In addition to detecting color, the camera detects the degree of polarization (DoLP) of the light reflecting off sea creatures. The device contains nanowire polarization filters with vertically stacked photodetectors. The photodetectors capture three different spectral channels per pixel using wavelength-dependent depth absorption of photos. The device generates two images, the first with colors in the visible-light spectrum, and the second with a range of polarized light, showing polarized light as red and un-polarized light as blue.

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Biomimicry Story

While human eyes have just three photoreceptors to detect red, green, and blue light, mantis shrimp eyes have up to sixteen photoreceptors that detect many more types of light, including ultraviolet and polarized light. Mantis shrimp can move their eyes independently and are the only known animal capable of detecting circularly polarized light.