Dome lens from Tamkang University utilizes the properties of spider silk to form a dome shape out of resin.

Benefits

  • Improved efficiency
  • Biocompatible
  • Versatile

Applications

  • Medical imaging
  • Medical implants

UN Sustainable Development Goals Addressed

  • Goal 3: Good Health & Wellbeing

  • Goal 12: Responsible Production & Consumption

Bioutilization

  • Spider silk

The Challenge

Medical imaging needs to be high resolution at very small scales, which requires specialized lenses. These lenses are oftentimes composed of intricate shapes, resulting in a higher error rate during manufacturing. This also makes them more expensive and difficult to manufacture.

Innovation Details

Spider silk exhibits many impressive properties, including high elasticity and tensile strength, while still being biocompatible. This makes it superior to current synthetic fibers. The lens is made using dragline silk collected from daddy longlegs spiders. Resin is dripped onto the fiber, and as the resin condenses it causes the silk to form into a dome shape, which can be used as an optical lens.

When a laser is shined onto the lens, it generates a high-quality photonic nanojet, which is a type of beam that can provide large-area, super-resolution imaging for biomedical applications. The size of the dome lens can be altered for different types of imaging by altering the time the silk is suspended in the resin.

Biomimicry Story

Spider silk contains properties that allow water to stick to it and condense, helping the spider to harvest water when it’s thirsty. To maximize the amount of water that gets trapped in its web, spiders use a comb-like structure on their legs to puff up their silk into a ball-like tangle. They then weave webs that alternate these tangles with straight, smooth, thin sections of silk threads, making a kind of beaded necklace structure. When water condenses on the web it starts to move, migrating from the thin threads towards the tangles, where it gets stuck because the tangled parts of the web have more area for the water to stick to.