Few security cameras provide a 360-degree view, but researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Cambridge, Mass., have created and tested light-detecting fibers that, when woven into a web, become a flexible fabric camera. A potential application is camera fabric clothing that can provide soldiers with an all-around view, transmitted from the fabric to a computer screen in a helmet or visor. “This is the first time that anybody has demonstrated that a single plane of fibers, or fabric, can collect images just like a camera but without a lens,” says associate professor Yoel Fink of MIT.
The fibers consist of rings of light-sensitive semiconductor material, electrodes and polymer insulation. The MIT team places these elements into a pre-form mould, heats and melts the components and draws out long, thin fiber strands. Individual fibers measure light intensity and convert it to electrical signals. If one fabric area is damaged, the remaining fibers continue to transmit images. Military, security and energy applications have attracted research funds from the Army Research Office, National Science Foundation, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and Department of Energy.