Inspired by the visual system of the morpho butterfly, we have designed, fabricated, tested and clinically translated an ultra-sensitive, light weight and compact imaging sensor capable of simultaneously capturing near infrared (NIR) and visible spectrum information. The visual system of the morpho butterfly combines photosensitive cells with spectral filters at the receptor level. The spectral filters are realized by alternating layers of high and low dielectric constant, such as air and cytoplasm. We have successfully mimicked this concept by integrating pixelated spectral filters, realized by alternating silicon dioxide and silicon nitrate layers, with an array of CCD detectors. There are four different types of pixelated spectral filters in the imaging plane: red, green, blue and NIR. The high optical density (OD) of all spectral filters (OD>4) allow for efficient rejections of photons from unwanted bands. The single imaging chip weighs 20 grams with form factor of 5mm by 5mm.
The imaging camera is integrated with a goggle display system. A tumor targeted agent, LS301, is used to identify all spontaneous tumors in a transgenic PyMT murine model of breast cancer. The imaging system achieved sensitivity of 98% and selectivity of 95%. We also used our imaging sensor to locate sentinel lymph nodes (SLNs) in patients with breast cancer using indocyanine green tracer. The surgeon was able to identify 100% of SLNs when using our bio-inspired imaging system, compared to 93% when using information from the lymphotropic dye and 96% when using information from the radioactive tracer.