Ultimately the researchers expect the new system will be capable of much more, with potential applications ranging from improved space telescopes to clothing that provides situational awareness to soldiers or even the visually impaired.
The transparent fiber-webs could even enable huge computer screens to be activated with beams of light instead of the touch of a finger. "We could use light to enhance interaction with computers and even gaming systems," said Professor Yoel Fink of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering and the Research Lab of Electronics, leader of the team. "It's intriguing--the idea of touching with light."
The scientists report the work in the June 25 online edition of Nature Materials, and it is featured on the cover of the July print issue of the magazine.
The human eye, digital and film cameras, and even the Hubble space telescope rely on lenses and detector surfaces (like the retina) to create images. But while these systems deliver excellent images, they are constrained by their size, weight, fragility and limited field of view.
In contrast, the fiber webs are flexible and lightweight. Plus, a fiber web in the shape of a sphere can sense the entire volume of space around it, according to Fink.
"When you're looking at something with your eyes, there's a particular direction you're looking in," says Ayman Abouraddy a research scientist in Fink's lab. "The field of view is defined around that direction. Depending on the lens, you may be able to capture a certain field of view around that direction, but that's it. Until now, most every optical system was limited by an optical axis or direction."
In addition to having an unlimited field of view, the fiber sphere can also detect the direction of incoming light. Light enters the transparent sphere at one point and exits at another, providing a directional reference back to the light source.
Fink's team has also created a flat, two-dimensional web of fibers and placed two such webs in parallel. These constructs, which can measure the intensity of incoming light, are capable of generating rough images of objects placed near them, such as the shape of a letter "E" cut stencil-like from paper and lit from behind. The image shows up on a computer screen, reconstructed from a light intensity distribution measured by the webs.
The fibers used in the webs are about 1 millimeter in diameter. They consist of a photoconductive glass core with metal electrodes that run along the length of the core, all surrounded by a transparent polymer insulator.
The fibers can detect light anywhere along their length, producing a change in current in an external electrical circuit. While one fiber on its own cannot detect the exact location of an incoming beam of light, when many fibers are arrayed in a web, their points of intersection provide the exact coordinates of the beam. A computer assimilates the data generated by the web and translates it for the user. If the fibers were woven into a textile, for instance, an embedded computer could provide information on a small display screen or even audibly.
Improving the imaging power of the fiber webs will require reducing the diameter of the fibers and creating denser webs. Fink says he's not certain whether the new technology will one day replicate human vision. "Just the idea of imaging with a transparent object is a true eye opener," he said.
Fink's colleagues on the work are John Joannopoulos, the Francis Wright Davis Professor of Physics and a member of the Research Lab of Electronics (RLE), RLE research scientists Ayman Abouraddy and Mehmet Bayindir (now a faculty member at Bilkent University, Turkey), graduate students Ofer Shapira of the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, and Fabien Sorin, of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, RLE research assistant Jerimy Arnold and Dursen Hinczewski (now at Istanbul Technical University, Turkey). Yigal Migdal assembled the sphere.
This work is funded by the MIT Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies, the U.S. Department of Energy, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and the National Science Foundation.
Elizabeth Thomson | EurekAlert!
Gelatine instead of forearm
19.04.2017 | Empa - Eidgenössische Materialprüfungs- und Forschungsanstalt
Computers create recipe for two new magnetic materials
18.04.2017 | Duke University
The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.
Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...
The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...
Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.
Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...
Two researchers at Heidelberg University have developed a model system that enables a better understanding of the processes in a quantum-physical experiment...
Glaciers might seem rather inhospitable environments. However, they are home to a diverse and vibrant microbial community. It’s becoming increasingly clear that they play a bigger role in the carbon cycle than previously thought.
A new study, now published in the journal Nature Geoscience, shows how microbial communities in melting glaciers contribute to the Earth’s carbon cycle, a...
20.04.2017 | Event News
18.04.2017 | Event News
03.04.2017 | Event News
21.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
21.04.2017 | Health and Medicine
21.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy