The development of stretchable fiber optic sensors promotes changing the operation of soft robots and smart systems. Recently, a team of scientists from the U.S. has developed a distributed fiber sensor that uses low-cost LEDs and dyes. The developed fiber optic sensors are stretchable and allow for finding different deformations (strain, pressure, bending).
To be more precise, these distributed sensors can be applied in soft robotic systems and augmented reality technology. The fiber optic sensors offer the opportunity to feel the same tactile sensations as animals use to navigate the natural world. The ability to determine deformations(for instance, strain, pressure, and bending) makes it possible to find exact locations.
The scientists claim that such a fiber optic technology will be useful for applications in sports medicine and physical therapy. The development of fiber sensors is based on previous technology, “in which light was sent through an optical waveguide, and a photodiode detected changes in the beam’s intensity to determine when the material was deformed.” Then numerous similar sensing systems have been created.
It should be noted that the operating principle is based on silica-based distributed fiber sensors. The distributed fiber optic sensors allow for recording the slightest wavelength shifts to determine, for example, changes in humidity, temperature, and strain. Nevertheless, silica optical fibers are not efficient with soft and stretchable devices.
Herewith, it is easy to deform soft materials in difficult-to-reach areas. Therefore, scientists develop a fiber sensor that can overcome these challenges. The new fiber optic system consists of a stretchable light guide for multimodal sensing. The two cores of optical fiber are made of polyurethane elastomeric. The first core is transparent, the second has dyed.
A pair of cores in distributed fiber optic sensors increase the number of outputs. They, in turn, help to find various deformations, their exact location, and magnitudes. Compared to standard distributed sensors, new sensing systems do not need high-resolution detection equipment.
Stretchable fiber optic sensors apply small optoelectronics with a lower resolution. Thus, they have a lower cost, simple manufacturing, and can be easily installed into small systems. Moreover, it is possible to wear this fiber optic technology. For example, scientists have installed these fiber sensors in a 3D-printed glove.
Finally, this fiber optic technology allows scientists to measure tactile interactions in real life. Additionally, the team finds the way how distributed fiber optic sensors can advances virtual and augmented reality experiences. The thing is that these systems’ operation is based on motion capture, and fiber sensors can add new experiences.
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