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Spider-web architecture spun into 3D imaging technology


Researchers in the US have taken inspiration from spider-web architecture to develop new 3D photodetectors for biomedical imaging.

The researchers, from Purdue University, used some architectural features from spider webs, which exhibit a repeating pattern, to develop the technology. Spider webs typically provide mechanical adaptability and damage-tolerance against various mechanical loads such as storms.

“We employed the unique fractal design of a spider web for the development of deformable and reliable electronics that can seamlessly interface with any 3D curvilinear surface,” said Chi Hwan Lee, a Purdue assistant professor of biomedical engineering and mechanical engineering.

“For example, we demonstrated a hemispherical, or dome-shaped, photodetector array that can detect both direction and intensity of incident light at the same time, like the vision system of arthropods such as insects and crustaceans.”

Lee said the pattern provides unique capabilities to distribute externally induced stress throughout the threads according to the effective ratio of spiral and radial dimensions and provides greater extensibility to better dissipate force under stretching. They can also tolerate minor cuts of the threads while maintaining the overall strength and function of the entire web architecture, he added. 

spider web.jpg

“The resulting 3D optoelectronic architectures are particularly attractive for photodetection systems that require a large field of view and wide-angle antireflection, which will be useful for many biomedical and military imaging purposes,” explained Muhammad Ashraful Alam, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at the university.

Alam said the work establishes a platform technology that can integrate a fractal web design with system-level hemispherical electronics and sensors, thereby offering several excellent mechanical adaptability and damage-tolerance against various mechanical loads.

“The assembly technique presented in this work enables deploying 2D deformable electronics in 3D architectures, which may foreshadow new opportunities to better advance the field of 3D electronic and optoelectronic devices,”

Ref: Engineering and Technology

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