Date: 30 Mar 2012

Characterization of Bio-Inspired Synthetic Hair Cell Sensors

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Recently, researchers at Virginia Tech have developed biologically-inspired hair cell sensors that utilize the transport mechanism between cells to sense a variety of physical inputs. The cells consist of a hair-like, hydrogel-supported structure that is encapsulated in a lipid bilayer membrane. The membrane itself is capable of producing a change in capacitance when the hair is excited, which is measured by electrodes mounted in the base of the cell. This paper presents the results of modeling the dynamic response of the synthetic hair cell for a variety of boundary conditions and non-contact excitation methods so that the response can be related to the electrical output of the sensor. A finite element analysis of the synthetic hair is performed for rigid mounting conditions, which is then altered to account for varying degrees of stiffness in the mounting medium at the base of the hair. The finite element model is subsequently validated using high-speed imaging techniques and a closed-form solution. The model is then used to characterize the dynamic behavior of the hair cell sensor due to non-contact methods of excitation, such as base excitation.