Natural Silk as a Photonics Component: A Study on Its Light Guiding and Nonlinear Optical Properties

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


  • Sami Kujala
  • Anna Mannila
  • Lasse Karvonen
  • Khanh Kieu
  • Zhipei Sun

Research units

  • Spinverse Ltd.
  • University of Arizona


Silk fibers are expected to become a pathway to biocompatible and bioresorbable waveguides, which could be used to deliver localized optical power for various applications, e.g., optical therapy or imaging inside living tissue. Here, for the first time, the linear and nonlinear optical properties of natural silk fibers have been studied. The waveguiding properties of silk fibroin of largely unprocessed Bombyx mori silkworm silk are assessed using two complementary methods, and found to be on the average 2.8 dB mm-1. The waveguide losses of degummed silk are to a large extent due to scattering from debris on fiber surface and helical twisting of the fiber. Nonlinear optical microscopy reveals both configurational defects such as torsional twisting, and strong symmetry breaking at the center of the fiber, which provides potential for various nonlinear applications. Our results show that nonregenerated B. mori silk can be used for delivering optical power over short distances, when the waveguide needs to be biocompatible and bioresorbable, such as embedding the waveguide inside living tissue.


Original languageEnglish
Article number22358
Number of pages9
JournalScientific Reports
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2016
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

    Research areas

  • silk fibers, biomaterials

Download statistics

No data available

ID: 1728596