Exploring the Use of Native Spider Silk as an Optical Fiber for Chemical Sensing
Hey Tow K., Chow DM., Vollrath F., Dicaire I., Gheysens T., Thevenaz L.
© 1983-2012 IEEE. A spider uses up to seven different types of silk, all having specific functions, as building material, weapon, and sensory organ to detect the presence of preys on its web. Recently, scientists have put under the limelight the extraordinary properties of this ancient material. Indeed, native silk, directly extracted from spiders, is a tough, biodegradable, and biocompatible thread used mainly for tissue engineering and textile applications. Blessed with outstanding optical properties, this protein strand can also be used as a bioresorbable optical fiber and is, moreover, intrinsically sensitive to chemical compounds. In this communication, the waveguiding properties of native dragline silk are assessed and a pioneering proof-of-concept experiment using pristine spider silk as an optical fiber to measure humidity content is demonstrated. The feasibility of using silk-based optical fiber chemical sensors is also discussed.