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Current issue

ELEKTRO 7/2017 was released on June 26th 2017. Its digital version will be available on July 28th 2017.

Topic: Cables, conductors and cable technique; Connectors; Software; Marking and labelling

Main Article
Electrical insulation and thermal conductivity

SVĚTLO (Light) 3/2017 was released on June 9th 2017. Its digital version will be available on July 10th 2017.

Lightning sources
Terminology of LED lighting sources 

Daylight
The day lighting of big living rooms
Light technology assessment of linear structure

Spider Silk Sensors Could Search for Life on Mars

26.10.2015 | IEEE Spectrum | spectrum.ieee.org

Optical sensors made with spider silk could be used to look for trace gases produced by biological processes, according to a researcher who showed how silk could be used in place of conventional optical fibers.

The scientists hunting for life on Mars would like to be able to test for small amounts of ammonia, which might be emitted by the metabolism of microbes, so they need a sensor that can detect that while remaining insensitive to the large amounts of carbon dioxide in the Martian atmosphere.

Spider silk helping find the life on Mars

Spider silk does the trick, says Luc Thévanaz, who heads a research group studying fiber optics and optical sensing at Swiss Federal Institute of Technology of Lausanne. The fiber can carry a beam of light, and when something in the environment affects the fiber, that alters some characteristic of the light beam. The concept is used in strain sensing for bridges and other large structures: If the fiber stretches, it changes the spacing of an optical grating inside, altering the wavelength of the light passing through and alerting monitors to the amount of strain.

Thévanaz and his team tested their concept using the silk dragline from a female Nephila edulis spider. They found they could get good light transmission from the visible to the infrared, up to wavelengths of about 1400 nm. Their best transmission was infrared light at 900 nm, which had optical loss of 4 dB/cm, a measure of how far the light can travel before being absorbed by the material.

Read more at IEEE Spectrum

Image Credit: EPFL

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