Flexible Polymer Fiber Camera

MIT researchers have created a polymer fiber-based camera that could potentially be lightweight and foldable.

(The camera is made of a collection of polymer fibers
each of which consist of eight semiconductor light sensors that circle the center of the fiber, as shown here in this scanning electron microscope image.)

In order to make the camera, the researchers integrated the eight semiconducting light sensors into a polymer cylinder with a diameter of 25 millimeters, controlling the sensor's spacing and angle within the fiber. Once the sensors, made of a type of semiconducting glass, were in position, the polymer cylinder was heated and then stretched so that the diameter shrank the diameter of hundreds of micrometers...

When light hits the semiconductors, it displaces electrons within the material, creating an electrical current. The intensity of this current from the fibers is input into algorithms, running on an attached computer, that create the image of an object placed near the sheet of fiber.

[Fabien Sorin, the postdoctoral researcher who developed the fiber camera] says that the next step for the MIT team is to build more layers of sensors inside the fiber, which can be used to re-create images with multiple colors. Adding more layers is doable but could be challenging. "As you put more layers inside the fiber, it becomes harder to keep the cross section uniform," Sorin says.

This seems like just the kind of material to make Larry Niven's webeye from his 1996 novel The Ringworld Throne:

His eyes roved the ceiling and walls. He found what he sought: a glittering fractal spiderweb just under the great orange bulb at the apex of the dome.

Chmeee said, "We have a spy. I thought as much, but now we know it. The puppeteer placed cameras among us."
(Read more about Niven's webeye)

From MIT's Technology Review.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 6/19/2009)

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