From extremely distant stars in the sky

Adaptive optics (AO) technology was born from the desire to get a better view of the universe. Invented by astrophysicists to improve image quality in ground-based telescopes, it has enabled observing extremely distant stars in the sky.

to extremely small detail in the eye

Imagine Eyes® has taken AO out of astrophysics laboratories to improve image quality in retinal examinations. Our technology has enabled doctors to visualize extremely small detail in patients’ eyes.

Short history of AO technology

Atmospheric turbulence causes distortions in the light received from stars. What we perceive as the twinkling of stars causes severe blur in the images captured by terrestrial telescopes, to such an extent that many distant stars cannot be seen. Before AO was invented, the only way to get rid of this defect was to send costly orbital telescopes into space.

The principles of AO were invented in the 1950’s by the astronomer Horace Babcock. First developed by the US military during the Cold War, the technology was declassified for use in astronomy in the early 1990’s. It has resulted in major discoveries such as planets outside our solar system and a black hole at the center of our galaxy. In the late 1990’s researchers began to explore the potential of AO in ophthalmology.

How it works

When light propagate through optically imperfect media (like the atmosphere), the shape of light waves is altered by distortions that limit image quality. AO eliminates such distortions by using four key components:

1. Deformable mirror

A mirror that repeatedly reshapes its reflecting surface in order to compensate for wave distortions

2. Wavefront sensor

An optical sensor that measures the distortions of light waves just after they are reflected by the deformable mirror

3. Control system

Computer and algorithms that iteratively process data received from the wavefront sensor, and drive the deformable mirror. Everytime a new wave distortion is reported by the sensor, the control system commands the mirror to modify its shape in order to correct it.

4. Artificial guide star

A distant spot of light produced by shining a laser beam through the atmosphere. This spot is used as a reference light source by the wavefront sensor

Adaptive optics, adapted to eyes

Imaging through an imperfect organ. Optically speaking, our eyes are far from being perfect. Irregularities in the cornea, lens and intraocular fluids distort light waves, the same way as the atmosphere does.  These defects always reduce image quality in retinal examinations.

Core technology for eyes. As much as astronomy, ophthalmology can benefit from using AO. However the technologies developed for large telescopes have fallen far short of meeting the performance, compactness and cost effectiveness needed for medical use. Imagine Eyes has solved these issues by engineering an AO technology compatible for living eyes.