Biopolymer Optical Waveguide and Method of Manufacturing the Same
Researchers at Tufts University have introduced silk as a disruptive new material platform across multiple micro- and nano-scale technologies by combining the unique features of the silk protein family with optics and photonics. This merging of biology and optical physics creates sophisticated, multi-functional, silk-based optical sensing systems with target focus areas in environmental detection, renewable energy, and the life sciences. The silk sensor technology platform enables the detection and monitoring of a variety of contaminants through its versatile chemistry and processing and will directly embed an advanced optical interface offering immediate and easy read out. These systems are biocompatible, disposable, degradable, consumable, and distributable. The distinctive properties offered by silk materials will be at the core of the development of innovative products that address unmet needs across several market areas.
Silk is a revolutionary material that can outperform plastics, inorganic polymers, foams, glass and add unforeseen functions to technologies where conventional materials are used.
- It is the strongest natural fiber available
- It is biocompatible
- It has insulating properties comparable to the best ceramics
- It is >99 percent transparent across the visible spectrum
- It can be manufactured in a variety of shapes and sizes
This promising technology platform originates from the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Tufts University and combines the foremost worldwide silk expertise of biomedical engineers with optical physicists and materials scientists to generate a radically new class of multifunctional materials that can be handled like a crystal, a flexible film or an optical waveguide while embedding active biological features, such as living materials. To date, novel biocompatible and biodegradable components - silk lenses, lens arrays, waveguides, gratings, and holograms - have been developed. Protein immobilization has also been successfully achieved in silk films, including enzymes, antibodies, peptides, and small molecules.
The silk processing technology developed at Tufts enables unprecedented control over material properties. Silk can be realized in a variety of shapes and sizes with precise command over its material properties (i.e. strength, flexibility, transparency, hydrophobicity) and dimensions (with controlled features that range from <10 nm to several centimeters) to enable optical interfaces and biological functions. The initial markets identified (life sciences, environmental sensing, high-performance materials and renewable energy) are directly empowered by the complete biocompatibility and biodegradability of silk along with its material properties - a combination not found in conventional polymers.
Life Sciences and Biomedical - Implantable diagnostic devices - Medical multifunctional sensors - Biocompatible lab on chip
High Performance Biomaterials - Ultralight weight components - Electronics integration - Optical and electro-optical devices
Environmental and Biological Sensors - Sensors for water quality monitoring - Biodegradable dissolvable sensors - Biosensors for virus/bacteria detection
Renewable Energy - Silk based solar cells - Supercapacitors - Eco-friendly electronics
US Patent 8,195,021, Issued June 5, 2012 and several European Patents Issued on August 31, 2016
Tufts University case T001435