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Technology Factsheet

E-Whiskers

Category: Robotics > Other > Sensor
Reference # : Model No :

Whiskers are hairlike tactile sensors used by certain mammals and insects to monitor wind and navigate around local obstacles. Here, we demonstrate artificial electronic whiskers that can respond to pressures as low as 1 Pa with high sensitivity. The active component is based on composites of carbon nanotubes and silver nanoparticles that are painted on high-aspect-ratio fibers. The resistivity of the composite films is highly sensitive to mechanical strain and can be readily tuned by changing the composition ratio of the components. As a proof of concept, arrays of electronic whiskers are fabricated for real-time two- and three-dimensional gas-flow mapping with high accuracy. This work may enable a wide range of applications in advanced robotics and human–machine interfacing.

Site: *
Industry:Research
Size:Tiny (<1kg/2lb, <10cm/4in useable length)
TRL:Research (1-3)
TRL2: *
Tether: *
Waterproof: *
Payload: *
Reach: *
Manipulator: *

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Highly sensitive electronic whiskers based on patterned carbon nanotube and silver nanoparticle composite films,

Mammalian whiskers present an important class of tactile sensors that complement the functionalities of skin for detecting wind with high sensitivity and navigation around local obstacles. Here, we report electronic whiskers based on highly tunable composite films of carbon nanotubes and silver nanoparticles that are patterned on high-aspect-ratio elastic fibers. The nanotubes form a conductive network matrix with excellent bendability, and nanoparticle loading enhances the conductivity and endows the composite with high strain sensitivity. The resistivity of the composites is highly sensitive to strain with a pressure sensitivity of up to ~8%/Pa for the whiskers, which is >10× higher than all previously reported capacitive or resistive pressure sensors. It is notable that the resistivity and sensitivity of the composite films can be readily modulated by a few orders of magnitude by changing the composition ratio of the components, thereby allowing for exploration of whisker sensors with excellent performance. Systems consisting of whisker arrays are fabricated, and as a proof of concept, real-time two- and three-dimensional gas-flow mapping is demonstrated. The ultrahigh sensitivity and ease of fabrication of the demonstrated whiskers may enable a wide range of applications in advanced robotics and human–machine interfacing.

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