Hair sensor (via Seoul National University)
Sometimes when we step back and look at nature it can be a source of inspiration and innovation. For example, legged motion is preferred when building robots rather than a wheel base for increased stability through rough terrains. Kahp-Yang Suh and a team from Seoul National University in South Korea have recognized that hair is used in a large variety of ways in nature to help functions such as sensing, insulation, air filters(such as nose hairs), and balance. As a result, they decided to create an electronic skin coated with thousands of tiny hairs that could possibly coat robots and prosthetic limbs.
The electronic skin is extremely sensitive, using thousands of polymer nanohairs to sense when an external force is being applied to them. It can detect the most delicate wind of a breeze or vibration such as a heartbeat. The 50-nanometer wide hairs fold and twist among one another and create an electrical current just as human hair can induce sensations. In humans, the motion of the hair is sent to and interpreted by the brain, where as in the electronic skin all disturbances are processed by the sensor. The sensor can identify specific changes being applied to the skin and can displays them in real time (via a screen, of course). The team of scientist have tested and demonstrated the sensor thousands of times already with extreme precision each time. The electronic skin may soon be ready to be used as a new design element in electromechanical devices to improve performance. (Read more at the journal Nature)