Novel optical fibers made of agar

Nowadays it is difficult to imagine current systems without the appearance of fiber optic technology, which has firmly entered our life. For instance, optical fibers and fiber optic systems based on it are widely used in virtually all areas of modern industries. Herewith, fiber optic technology continues still developing and improving leading to new opportunities in different applications.

Thus, a team of researchers from Brazil has developed novel optical fiber made of agar. Such a fiber optic system is considered to be edible, biocompatible, and biodegradable. This fiber optic technology may find a promising application in vivo for body structure imaging, localized light delivery in phototherapy or optogenetics, as well as for localized drug delivery.

Moreover, the researchers claim that these optical fibers can be applied in the determination of microorganisms in specific organs, herewith, this fiber optic probe will be completely absorbed by the body after completing its purpose. It should be noted that novel optical fibers are made of agar (or agar-agar) that is regarded as natural gelatin produced by marine algae. 

To be more precise, agar’s composition includes a mixture of two polysaccharides, agarose, and agaropectin. The novel optical fiber has been already demonstrated and it looks like an agar cylinder with an external diameter of 2.5 mm, also it has 6 regular cylindrical air holes inside it around a solid fiber optic core.

Similarly to standard fiber optic systems, the operating principle of the novel optical fibers is also based on the light, which is limited here because of different refraction indices of the fiber optic core and the air holes. The manufacturing of the optical fiber requires to put food-grade agar into a mold with six internal rods placed lengthwise around the main axis.

Then these rods are taken away after cooling resulting in six air holes, and the optical fiber made of agar is ready. Moreover, the team confirms that it is possible to adjust the refraction index and geometry of the fiber optic system by changing the composition of the agar solution and its design as well.

During testing the optical fiber in various media, it has been found that the system is regarded as context-sensitive. Therefore, such an optical fiber can be used in optical sensing because it is subjected to structural changes in response to variations in such conditions as temperature, humidity, and pH level.

Finally, novel optical fibers can be perfect in such simultaneous application as a fiber optic sensor and a growth medium for microorganisms. The thing is that such a fiber optic probe will be a disposable sample unit including the required nutrients, and a camera or spectrometer helps to analyze the signals.

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