I just interviewed this guy yesterday. Very cool technology! Hopefully I’ll have the interview hosted on SPIE Newsroom in the next couple of weeks. There have been a TON of articles written about this so far.
By implanting light-sensitive, semiconducting materials into a single synthetic fiber, and then weaving that fiber into nearly one square foot of fabric, MIT scientists have created a flexible camera that has taken a picture of a smiley face.
A fabric camera is just the start. The same technique that put a camera into a fiber can also be used to implant other devices, even full computer systems, into fabrics.
“What would happen if a single strand of fiber became as advanced as a laptop computer?” said Yoel Fink, a scientist at MIT and co-author of a paper that appeared recently in the journal NanoLettters. “The essence of this paper is that this may now be possible.”
Creating an intelligent fiber is easier than it sounds. In fact, it’s similar to making hard candy.
“We start with a large object that is an exact scale model,” said Fink, “and then take it into a furnace, [heat it], elongate it, and draw out kilometers of fibers,” each one a tiny replica of the original and much larger model.
Each fiber is two to three times the width of a human hair, the easier for the researchers to handle them, although any sized fiber can be created. The smaller the fiber the more of them can be packed into an area, and the greater the resolution of the image.
Two nano-scale rings, 100 billionth of a meter long, of a light sensitive semiconducting material are encased in the fiber. When light hits those rings, it creates an electrical current that travels through the fiber and into a computer, which uses a special algorithm to decode the signals and create an image.