Electrospun Protein-based Photonic Waveguides

Open Access
Shreiner, Robert Todd
Area of Honors:
Engineering Science
Bachelor of Science
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Melik C. Demirel, Thesis Supervisor
  • Clifford J. Lissenden, Honors Advisor
  • Judith Todd Copley, Faculty Reader
  • Materials
  • Materials science
  • Photonics
  • Bio-photonics
  • Bio-mimetics
  • Proteins
  • Squid
  • SRT
  • Integrated photonics
  • Flexible
  • Tunable
  • Fiber
  • Waveguide
  • Optical
As biological, programmable building blocks, proteins offer an elegant means through their sequence-structure-property relationship for the design of novel optical materials. In contrast to the rigid, inorganic, and expensive technologies incorporated in current photonic systems, proteinaceous components would allow the realization of flexible, biocompatible, and economical devices, transforming the field’s application sphere. As an elementary constituent responsible for relaying information throughout optical circuits, protein-based waveguides are among the most important precursors for practical design. Here, for the first time, such proteinaceous waveguides have been demonstrated. Semi-crystalline structural protein, i.e., recombinant squid ring teeth (SRT) from Loligo vulgaris, were processed into microfibers through the electrospinning technique. Under the influence of large electrostatic fields, protein solution was propelled towards conducting collecting plates, the solvent evaporating en route with microscale fibers subsequently forming. Laser light was then coupled to the fibers, confirming their optical transmission capabilities. When considered with the fabrication of additional protein-based optical components, these results suggest proteinaceous materials may open an exciting path for next-generation photonics, revolutionizing the functional design of tunable, soft, and environmentally friendly technologies.