A UV Sensor Based on Butterfly Eyes

New sensor inspired by the UV-sensitive eyes of the Asian swallowtail butterfly can differentiate between tumor and healthy cells with 99% confidence

by Science Writer Kim Woolcock

Ultraviolet (UV) light has shorter wavelengths (<400 nm) than visible light (~400–700 nm) and is difficult to detect—it is not visible to the human eye and current UV sensor technology is limited. Butterfly eyes, though, can not only see UV, but can distinguish between different wavelengths on the UV spectrum (UVA, UVB, and UVC), thanks to their two complementary UV detection mechanisms. Researchers have built a highly sensitive UV sensor array that mimics butterfly eyes. The sensor has many potential applications, including a medical one: detecting tumor cells. Under UV light, cancer cells fluoresce more intensely than healthy cells, and the sensor can distinguish between them with 99% confidence. The sensor could thus allow label-free, real-time differentiation, helping surgeons to get clear margins when removing tumors. The open-access article titled “Bioinspired, Vertically Stacked, and Perovskite Nanocrystal–Enhanced CMOS Imaging Sensors For Resolving UV Spectral Signatures” by Cheng Chen et al. appeared in Science Advances on November 3, 2023.

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