I am not a fan of buying a camera every year.

Gallery: Happy Accident Opens Door to Cheaper, Higher-Resolution Cameras

"The original purpose [was] to make a solar cell more efficient," says Chen. "However, during the research we found the solar cell phenomenon [had] disappeared." Instead, the test material showed high gain photoconductivity, indicating potential use as a photo sensor.

Thanks to this lucky mistake, a new breed of camera sensors that are cheaper, higher-resolution and have lower distortion could be on the horizon. Click through the gallery to learn how this new breakthrough works and tour the labs where the magic happens.