Singing Optical Sensor Fibers

MIT researchers are creating fibers that can interact with their environment to provide sensory input and output, with sound and light and more. This research may enable a wide range of biomedical ensors that can be placed inside the body to collect information and possible interact with it. The researchers also expect the fibers will be capable of being woven into highly interactive smart fabrics that can provide two way communication of light, sound, pressure and possibly more sensory data.

Fibers that can hear and sing – [mit.edu]

In the August issue of Nature Materials, Fink and his collaborators announce a new milestone on the path to functional fibers: fibers that can detect and produce sound. Applications could include clothes that are themselves sensitive microphones, for capturing speech or monitoring bodily functions, and tiny filaments that could measure blood flow in capillaries or pressure in the brain.

…more…

In addition to wearable microphones and biological sensors, applications of the fibers could include loose nets that monitor the flow of water in the ocean and large-area sonar imaging systems with much higher resolutions: A fabric woven from acoustic fibers would provide the equivalent of millions of tiny acoustic sensors.

Zheng, a research scientist in Fink’s lab, also points out that the same mechanism that allows piezoelectric devices to translate electricity into motion can work in reverse. “Imagine a thread that can generate electricity when stretched,” he says.

Fabricating a Multifunctional Fiber – [technologyreview.com]

The finished fiber has a core that can carry light, a piezoelectric layer, and electrodes that can carry electricity to and from the piezoelectric layer. The MIT researchers can send pulses of electrical current down the fiber, causing the piezoelectric layer to squeeze the fiber. The resulting vibrations can be used to create acoustic waves, and the fibers can also detect vibrations and changes in pressure, because these, in turn, generate an electrical signal. This work is described this week in the journal Nature Materials.

Fink believes there are many possible applications for the new fibers. They could be woven into carpets that can count the number of people walking across them, or integrated into structural composites and used to sense cracks before they become serious. But one of the most promising applications, Fink believes, is in biomedicine. The fibers are less than a micrometer wide–narrow enough to be snaked into blood vessels or inserted into organs to monitor heart rate, blood flow, or biomarkers in the blood. Their ability to carry infrared light and to perform acoustic sensing offers a combination of properties similar to an ultrasound imager, a heart-rate monitor, and chemical spectrometer.


Multimaterial piezoelectric fibres
– [nature.com]

A ferroelectric polymer layer of 30 μm thickness is spatially confined and electrically contacted by internal viscous electrodes and encapsulated in an insulating polymer cladding hundreds of micrometres in diameter. The structure is thermally drawn in its entirety from a macroscopic preform, yielding tens of metres of piezoelectric fibre. The fibres show a piezoelectric response and acoustic transduction from kilohertz to megahertz frequencies.

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