A new kind of imaging device with a loose bundle of optical fibres without any lenses or protection layer was recently brought forth by MIT. The whole bunch of these optical fibers has been connected with a complete array of photosensors over one end while the other one has been left loose like brush bristles. The fibers thus help in formation of an “optical brush” that are flexible and wide spread out. It is an important technology that cans open doors for a number of other applications. For instance, the fibers are capable if passing individually through micrometer-level gaps present in a porous membrane to showcase the inner side of other side.
Other kind of application can include feeding of flexible bundles via pipes or through immersion in fluids. These can be used for imaging of underground resources like aquifers or oil fields or for navigation of plumbing, irregularly shaped tunnel system or industrial pipe frameworks. The researchers also see an opening for medical applications of devices like endoscopes as the optical fibers are pretty flexible and have the potential for narrower bundle diameter since this device does not need any extra electronics.
The position of the fibers located at the other end of the brush does not need to communicate with photodetectors position inside the array. The research team used a technique called “time of flight” that measures the differing times for which the short pulses of light get to the photodetectors. This helps in recognition of fibers relative location. In this version of device, the team used external lasers that can offer the calibrating bursts of light. Barmak Heshmat, the postdoc working at MIT’s Media Lab and also the lead researchers of this project, explains, “Time of flight, which is a technique that is broadly used in our group, has never been used to do such things. Previous work has used time of flight to extract depth information. But in this work, I was proposing to use time of flight to enable a new interface for imaging.”
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