Fibers that can transmit light and detect changes in pressure. Photo: Greg Hren. Courtsey: Reserach Laboratory of Electronics at MIT.
As material resources become increasingly valuable, products will be expected to satisfy multiple functions. A study of living organisms provides clues about multifunctionality in nature, which results from the deep integration of multiple systems with different capabilities.
In a recent example of biomimicry at work, MIT scientists have developed a multifunctional fiber that transports light as well as detects pressure changes. The addition of a thin piezoelectric film to optical fibers provides the capability to sense heat and light, making the sophisticated hybrid a promising addition to the burgeoning catalog of smart materials.
According to materials science and engineering professor Yoel Fink, "We want to increase the level of complexity and sophistication of fibers.” The new technology could be used to depict changing information within clothing, vehicle surfaces, or building skins.