ClearEye

Optical sensor that cleans itself by spinning

Clear Eye.
Image from John Edds

A ClearEye is a design for self-cleaning optical sensors for use in environments where liquids, snow, mud, slime, sand, dust, dirt, or other environmental materials can obstruct the view of an EM-sensing material by persisting on their surface.

The primary users of ClearEyes are robots, vecs, and cyborgs operating in wet and dirty environments, and to whom good vision under these conditions in the near infrared, optical, or ultraviolet is advantageous.

There are various ways to produce self-cleaning omni-directional optical sensors, but the ClearEye design is mechanically the simplest, most effective at removing major contamination quickly, and the most robust.

A ClearEye cleans itself via centrifugal action. Their transparent globe (the Clear) envelopes a central sphere which has an optical phased array surface (the Eye), which prevents contaminants from coming into contact with the Eye. When self-cleaning, the Clear rotates at high speed around the Eye, shedding contaminants from its outer surface. The rotations per minute are increased until the most tenacious of contaminants is spun off. The Clear is spun by high power density nanotech motors in the ClearEye's base.

The Clear is typically composed of corundumoid because of its transparency across ultraviolet to infrared, its hardness to resist scratching, and its stability under intense UV radiation. Many Clears have a corundum or fluorinated ethylene propylene microhair ultrahydrophobic surface to aid the centrifugal action, or relegate its activation to more extreme environmental conditions.

The Clear is periodically repaired of surface scratches by various mechanisms. Many ClearEyes have a valved armour that claps around them to protect them from serious impacts. These shells contain Clear-repairing micro-nanosystems.

In conditions such as freezing rain, the Eye radiates strongly in thermal infrared to prevent freezing on the Clear.

In size, a ClearEye may be anywhere in the range from sub-centimetres to multiple metres in diameter.

ClearEyes in operation can, depending upon the mass and rpms of the Clear, have significant gyroscopic effects. If this is an issue, a counter-rotating mass is supplied either in the form of another ClearEye, or a compact ultrahigh-speed flywheel.

 
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Development Notes
Text by John Edds

Initially published on 29 April 2012.