Speaker: Kenny Hey Tow, Desmond Chow and Luc Thévenaz
Affiliation: Oxford University and École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne
Abstract: Whilst being thoroughly used in the textile industry and biomedical sector, silk has not yet been exploited for fibre optics-based sensing although silk fibres directly obtained from spiders can guide light and have shown early promises to being sensitive to some solvents. The aim of Silky Way, which is to demonstrate the proof-of-concept of fibre optic biosensors based on a single strand of silk of the major ampullate gland, has been achieved during this six-month study. First of all, light injection and guiding were achieved inside a spider silk dragline, controllably reeled from a female Nephila edulis spider. Indeed, efficient light injection inside these fibres allowed us to determine some optical characteristics of these silk fibres such as their transmission window, propagation losses and optical birefringence. More specifically, the impact of biochemical agents on the properties of the transmitted light inside the silk fibre was assessed. We managed to demonstrate the use of spider silk dragline to detect polar solvents such as water, ammonia and acetic acid, which is a stepping stone to the development of fibre optic biosensors based on spider silk fibres.