Researchers have developed an imaging sensor that can see ultraviolet (UV) light, inspired by the visual system of butterflies. The sensor uses stacked photodiodes and perovskite nanocrystals (PNCs) to detect different wavelengths in the UV range. This new camera technology can even differentiate between cancer and normal cells with 99% confidence using the spectral signatures of biomedical markers. Humans cannot see UV light, but butterflies can, and they are able to perceive small variations in the UV spectrum. Butterflies have compound eyes with multiple photoreceptors, allowing them to see a broader range of colors and details. The UIUC team replicated the UV sensing mechanism of the Papilio xuthus butterfly by combining a layer of PNCs with a tiered array of silicon photodiodes. PNCs are excellent at detecting UV wavelengths that traditional silicon detectors cannot. The PNC layer absorbs UV light and re-emits light in the visible spectrum, which is detected by the silicon photodiodes. This imaging sensor could be used in healthcare, as cancer cells and healthy cells have different concentrations of markers that fluoresce in the UV spectrum. The sensor can differentiate between cancer and healthy cells, aiding in surgery to ensure clear margins. It could also provide opportunities for biologists to study species that see in the UV range and explore underwater environments.
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