MIT develops camera-like fabric

Researchers have woven a swath of fabric consisting of special fibers that can capture an image of what's nearby.

This cross section shows two rings of light-sensitive semiconductor material in the fiber. The eight thicker parts are electrodes to carry signals.
This cross section shows two rings of light-sensitive semiconductor material in the fiber. The eight thicker parts are electrodes to carry signals. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

And you thought it was a problem when folks went into the locker room toting cell phones with cameras.

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed a fabric made of a mesh of light-sensitive fibers that collectively act like a rudimentary camera. The fibers, which each can detect two frequencies of light, produced signals that when amplified and processed by a computer reproduced an image of a smiley face near the mesh.

"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," said Yoel Fink, an associate professor of materials science, who along with colleagues described the approach in a the journal Nano Letters.

MIT suggested that the technology, if developed further, could give a soldier a uniform that would help him see threats in all directions. Optical fiber webs, by distributing the chore across a large area, would be less susceptible to damage in one area.

The technology uses fibers less than a millimeter in diameter, stretched into thin form from a thicker cylinder. Within the fibers are two cylindrical shells of semiconductor material, each connected to the outside world with four built-in metal electrodes.

About the author

Stephen Shankland has been a reporter at CNET since 1998 and covers browsers, Web development, digital photography and new technology. In the past he has been CNET's beat reporter for Google, Yahoo, Linux, open-source software, servers and supercomputers. He has a soft spot in his heart for standards groups and I/O interfaces.

 

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