Nanostructured fibers as a versatile photonic platform: Radiative cooling and waveguiding through transverse Anderson localization

Norman Nan Shi, Cheng Chia Tsai, Michael J. Carter, Jyotirmoy Mandal, Adam C. Overvig, Matthew Y. Sfeir, Ming Lu, Catherine L. Craig, Gary D. Bernard, Yuan Yang, Nanfang Yu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

54 Scopus citations


Broadband high reflectance in nature is often the result of randomly, three-dimensionally structured materials. This study explores unique optical properties associated with one-dimensional nanostructures discovered in silk cocoon fibers of the comet moth, Argema mittrei. The fibers are populated with a high density of air voids randomly distributed across the fiber cross-section but are invariant along the fiber. These filamentary air voids strongly scatter light in the solar spectrum. A single silk fiber measuring ~50 μm thick can reflect 66% of incoming solar radiation, and this, together with the fibers' high emissivity of 0.88 in the mid-infrared range, allows the cocoon to act as an efficient radiative-cooling device. Drawing inspiration from these natural radiative-cooling fibers, biomimetic nanostructured fibers based on both regenerated silk fibroin and polyvinylidene difluoride are fabricated through wet spinning. Optical characterization shows that these fibers exhibit exceptional optical properties for radiative-cooling applications: nanostructured regenerated silk fibers provide a solar reflectivity of 0.73 and a thermal emissivity of 0.90, and nanostructured polyvinylidene difluoride fibers provide a solar reflectivity of 0.93 and a thermal emissivity of 0.91. The filamentary air voids lead to highly directional scattering, giving the fibers a highly reflective sheen, but more interestingly, they enable guided optical modes to propagate along the fibers through transverse Anderson localization. This discovery opens up the possibility of using wild silkmoth fibers as a biocompatible and bioresorbable material for optical signal and image transport.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number37
JournalLight: Science and Applications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2018
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics


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