Developments in threads, fibers, and fiber optics used for displays, data transmission, and biometric sensors open many paths for wearable applications. We’ve written about pressure-sensitive flexible plastic fibers that incorporate electrode materials and nanocomposite polymers developed at Ecole Polytechnique de Lausanne, for example. We also covered fiber OLEDs used as wearable displays developed at Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology.

Researchers at the Institute of Photonics Technology at Jinan University in Guangzhou, China recently presented a new fiber laser-based ultrasound sensor with potential applications for wearable tech and improved endoscopes. The new fiber uses optical fiber sensors for photoacoustic imaging. The fiber’s 8-micron diameter optical core contains a compact laser. Typically only 8 millimeters long, the researchers build highly reflective grating mirrors into the fiber’s core to build up the laser. The technology works by detecting high signal-to-noise ratio frequency shifts which are used to reconstruct acoustic waveforms.

According to the developers, current commercial endoscopic devices are millimeters in diameter, making them difficult to use in hollow organs with tight spaces, and otherwise causing pain. The team’s fiber laser ultrasound sensors could solve both problems and have other potential applications with wearable technologies.