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Light-transmitting fibers: Venus flower basket

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Venus Flower Basket from Phillipine Sea / NEON ja / LicenseCC-by-sa - Attribution Share Alike

The glass-like fibers of a glass sponge transmit light better than our fiber optics, yet are made from natural materials and at ambient temperatures.

BIOMIMICRY TAXONOMY
Summary
"The thin glassy fibers protruding from the base of the Venus flower basket sponge are better able to transmit light than industrial fiber optic cables used for telecommunication. Additionally, the sponge's fibers are more flexible than the man-made variety. The sponge produces its fibers at low temperatures using natural materials. Trace amounts of sodium are added to the fibers to increase their ability to conduct light. The high temperature required for the manufacture of industrial fiber optics precludes additives such as sodium, and yields a fiber that is brittle and easily broken. Scientists hope, however, to mimic the Venus flower basket's fiber manufacture process, developing a way to produce fiber optics at ambient temperatures." (Courtesy of the Biomimicry Guild)
About the inspiring organism
Med_266102989_a1a8c3faf9_o Venus flower basket (sponge)
Euplectella aspergillum Owen, 1841

Habitat(s): Marine Oceanic
Learn more at EOL.org
Some organism data provided by: Porifera: World Porifera Database
Organism/taxonomy data provided by:
Species 2000 & ITIS Catalogue of Life: 2008 Annual Checklist

IUCN Red List Status: Unknown

Bioinspired products and application ideas

Application Ideas: Fiber optics, semiconductors, and photovoltaic materials. Create bristles for fibers that conduct sunlight into a building's walls where the nanostructures would convert it to electricity.

Industrial Sector(s) interested in this strategy: Manufacturing, communications

References
Sundar, VC; Yablon, AD; Grazul, JL; Ilan, M; Aizenberg, J. 2003. Fibre-optical features of a glass sponge. Nature. 424(6951): 899-900.
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Sherry
10 months ago
In this TEDxBigApple talk by Joanna Aizenberg, she talks about the multiple functions (mechanical, optics, fluidics) and potential applications of emulating the Venus flower basket. She also mentions the function of the "fiber optics" of the sponge: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nVOzkO-ccuc&feature=youtu.be#!
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Sherry
over 5 years ago
This article suggests a use of fiber optics to improve solar cells: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/8341186.stm.
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