PORTLAND, Ore. By combining semiconductor layers and metal electrodes within optical fibers, researchers have demonstrated a distributed camera lens that can be woven into a fabric. Designed at the Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the fabric gathers light from all directions, then uses a wearable computer to integrate the signals into a 3-D image of the surrounding area.
The optical fibers used to collect light are fabricated using a process that interleaves two 100-nm-thick layers of optically clear semiconductors with four metal electrodes, separated by insulating optical polymers along their entire length. After the fibers are woven into a fabric, the electrodes are fed into a computer which records the intensity of the light coming in from each fiber. By knowing from which part of the soldiers uniform the particular stream of colored light is coming, a computer algorithm can reconstruct images from any direction.
MIT researchers claim they can construct fibers in a bulk material that can then be melted in a special furnace so that components are drawn out into the tiny fibers while retaining the orientation of the various materials. Currently, the team is perfecting the algorithms which reconstruct the images while developing fibers with additional light-gathering layers for higher resolution and better differentiation between wavelengths of light for color images.
The project was funded by the Army Research Office, National Science Foundation, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the U.S. Energy Department.