Crickethair sensor is 'highlight' of bio-inspired technology

Mar 11, 2013

One of the top ten highlights of the past year, in terms of technology that is inspired by nature. That was how the journal Bioinspiration & Biomimetics described a paper by researchers from the University of Twente's MESA+ Institute for Nanotechnology. The publication describes new technology involving the use of sensors to measure flow patterns. Source of inspiration: the hairs on cricket abdomens.

Crickets use sensitive hairs on their cerci (projections on the abdomen) to detect predators. For these insects, air currents carry information about the location of nearby predators and the direction in which they are moving. These University of Twente researchers wondered whether they could use the same principle to create a new kind of "camera", capable of imaging entire flow patterns rather than measuring flows at a single point. They mimic the cricket hairs using microtechnology. The hairs themselves are made of a type of epoxy, which is attached to a flexible suspended plate. That acts as a capacitor, whose capacitance varies with movement. Measuring that variation gives you information about the movement. Using an entire field or array of such fine hairs, it is possible to identify patterns in the flow, in much the same way as complete images are formed from the individual pixels detected by chips in cameras.

Flow camera

The trick is then to be able to read each hair individually. To this end, a range of options have been explored. Frequency Division Multiplexing (FDM) offers the greatest advantages. With FDM, the measured signal is not delayed while in transit, it is not difficult to synchronize the individual sensors, and the sensor array can easily be expanded without sacrificing performance. Also, the hardware involved is less complex than that required by other technologies. Looking ahead, the researchers believe that it will ultimately be a relatively simple matter to integrate the and the hardware. This will result in a "camera" that is capable of imaging . These could be used as a motion detection system in robots, for example.

The study by Ahmad Dagamseh and his colleagues was carried out in the Transducer Science and Technology group, headed by Professor Gijs Krijnen. The group is part of the University of Twente's MESA+ Institute for Nanotechnology. Their research was funded by the EU's Customized Intelligent Life-Inspired Arrays programme (CILIA), and by the "Bio-EARS" VICI grant awarded to Gijs Krijnen by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO) and the STW Technology Foundation.

All of the 2012 highlights from "Bioinspiration & Biomimetics" can be seen here. The University of Twente publication is entitled "Towards a high-resolution flow camera using artificial hair sensor arrays for flow pattern observations".

Explore further: Physicists create new nanoparticle for cancer therapy

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Synthetic cricket pricks up its 'ears'

Dec 06, 2011

The tiny hairs on the abdomen of a cricket have inspired researchers at the University of Twente, to make a new type of sensor which is ultra sensitive to air flows. These synthetic cricket hairs can now also ...

Measuring flow using a wobbling tube

Dec 18, 2012

One milligram per hour: fluid flow can be measured with great precision using a tiny 'wobbling' tube with a diameter of only 40 micrometres. Thanks to a new technique, the sensor, which makes use of the 'Coriolis ...

Nature helps to solve a sticky problem

Apr 05, 2011

The arrays of fine adhesive hairs or 'setae' on the foot pads of many insects, lizards and spiders give them the ability to climb almost any natural surface. Research by James Bullock and Walter Federle from the University ...

Recommended for you

Innovative strategy to facilitate organ repair

8 hours ago

A significant breakthrough could revolutionize surgical practice and regenerative medicine. A team led by Ludwik Leibler from the Laboratoire Matière Molle et Chimie (CNRS/ESPCI Paris Tech) and Didier Letourneur ...

Physicists create new nanoparticle for cancer therapy

Apr 16, 2014

A University of Texas at Arlington physicist working to create a luminescent nanoparticle to use in security-related radiation detection may have instead happened upon an advance in photodynamic cancer therapy.

User comments : 0

More news stories

'Exotic' material is like a switch when super thin

(Phys.org) —Ever-shrinking electronic devices could get down to atomic dimensions with the help of transition metal oxides, a class of materials that seems to have it all: superconductivity, magnetoresistance ...

Innovative strategy to facilitate organ repair

A significant breakthrough could revolutionize surgical practice and regenerative medicine. A team led by Ludwik Leibler from the Laboratoire Matière Molle et Chimie (CNRS/ESPCI Paris Tech) and Didier Letourneur ...

Researchers successfully clone adult human stem cells

(Phys.org) —An international team of researchers, led by Robert Lanza, of Advanced Cell Technology, has announced that they have performed the first successful cloning of adult human skin cells into stem ...