Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed a fabric made of a mesh of light-sensitive fibres that collectively act like a rudimentary camera. The fibres, which each 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 fibres, 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 fibre webs, by distributing the feed across a large area, would be less susceptible to damage in one area.
The technology uses fibres less than a millimetre in diameter, stretched into thin form from a thicker cylinder. Within the fibres are two cylindrical shells of semiconductor material, each connected to the outside world with four built-in metal electrodes.