Miniaturized imaging systems have become ubiquitous as they are found in an ever-increasing number of devices, such
as cellular phones, personal digital assistants, and web cameras. Until now, the design and fabrication methodology of
such systems have not been significantly different from conventional cameras. The only established method to achieve
focusing is by varying the lens distance. On the other hand, the variable-shape crystalline lens found in animal eyes
offers inspiration for a more natural way of achieving an optical system with high functionality.
Learning from the working concepts of the optics in the animal kingdom, we developed bio-inspired fluidic lenses for a
miniature universal imager with auto-focusing, macro, and super-macro capabilities. Because of the enormous dynamic
range of fluidic lenses, the miniature camera can even function as a microscope. To compensate for the image quality
difference between the central vision and peripheral vision and the shape difference between a solid-state image sensor
and a curved retina, we adopted a hybrid design consisting of fluidic lenses for tunability and fixed lenses for aberration
and color dispersion correction. A design of the world's smallest surgical camera with 3X optical zoom capabilities is
also demonstrated using the approach of hybrid lenses.