e-whiskers developed for robotics and wearable technology applications
Nanotechnology and artificial body parts have been a subject of research for intuitive minds for decades and with the kind of technology that the world has evolved it is no surprise that we are seeing new developments every now and then. Researchers at Berkeley Lab and University of California (UC) Berkeley have come up with artificial whiskers made from silver nanoparticles and composite films of carbon quite similar to the whiskers of cats or rats. These e-whiskers are very sensitive to even a pressure of 1 Pascal which is equivalent to pressure exerted by a dollar bill on table. These electronic whiskers have high-aspect ratio fibers coated with conductive composite films of nanotubes and nanoparticles making them 10 times more sensitive to pressure than other pressure sensors developed in the past.
According to Ali Javey, faculty scientist in Berkeley Lab’s Materials Sciences Division and a UC Berkeley professor of electrical engineering and computer science
The strain sensitivity and electrical resistivity of our composite film is readily tuned by changing the composition ratio of the carbon nanotubes and the silver nanoparticles. The composite can then be painted or printed onto high-aspect-ratio elastic fibers to form e-whiskers that can be integrated with different user-interactive systems.
To demonstrate the capability of these whiskers Javey and his team successfully mapped the wind flow in 2D and 3D. What this means is that these e-whiskers could be used for measuring heartbeat and pulse rate as wearable sensors, advanced robotics or human-machine interfaces and biological applications.
This new research could lead to many nanoparticle applications as well as wearable technology applications that require very sensitive sensors. But for now a cat or rat would love to have these e-whiskers to enhance their capability for the hunt.