Navigation Links
Turning to nature for inspiration

To build the next generation of sensors with applications ranging from medical devices to robotics to new consumer goods Chang Liu looks to biology.

Liu, professor of mechanical engineering and electrical engineering and computer science at Northwestern University's McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, is using insights from nature as inspiration for both touch and flow sensors areas that currently lack good sensors for recording and communicating the senses.

Liu will discuss his research in a symposium at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Washington, D.C., to be held from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 19.

For the past 10 years, Liu has led a research group that develops artificial hair cell sensors. Hair cells provide a variety of sensing abilities for different animals: they help humans hear, they help insects detect vibration, and they form the lateral line system that allows fish to sense the flow of water around them.

"The hair cell is interesting because biology uses this same fundamental structure to serve a variety of purposes," Liu says. "This differs from how engineers typically design sensors, which are often used for a specific task."

By creating artificial hair cells using micro- and nanofabrication technology, Liu's group is increasing sensor performance while deepening the understanding of how different creatures use these sensors. For example, every fish in the world uses hair cells in the lateral line as sensors, but so far no manmade vehicle does. If a submarine had sensors similar to that of a fish, it could record much more information on water movement.

Liu's current focus is the medical application of these biologically inspired sensors. He hopes that artificial hair cells could be used to measure acoustics in an artificial cochlea or could be embedded as flow sensors in a wide variety of medical devices.

Liu is also developing new touch sensors to improve minimally invasive surgery techniques. Currently many minimally invasive procedures are conducted through a catheter that is inserted into the body and controlled by a doctor on the outside.

"During a heart treatment, the doctor controlling the catheter has no sense of touch and cannot tell if the catheter has touched the heart wall and successfully completed the therapeutic treatment," Liu explains. "We want to use microfabrication technology to put sensors on the end of the catheter to provide feedback."

In order to achieve his goals, Liu has assembled a multidisciplinary team that includes biologists, engineers, materials scientists and physicians. A mix of fundamental and applied research is necessary to make biologically inspired sensors a reality, he says.

"Using a bio-inspired approach is really important," Chang says. "Nature has a lot of wonderful examples that can challenge us. No matter how good some of our technology is, we still can't do some of the basic things that nature can. Nature holds the secret for the next technology breakthrough and disruptive innovation. We are on a mission to find it."


Contact: Megan Fellman
Northwestern University

Related biology news :

1. Discovery may lead to turning back the clock on ovarian cancer
2. Turning school ground natural areas into environmental labs
3. Thesis analyzes factors responsible for the case of Basque natural cider turning bitter
4. Brain tumors: Tissue stem cell turning into tumor stem cell
5. Duke technique is turning proteins into glass
6. Turning sunlight into liquid fuels
7. Turning over a new leaf for future energy supplies
8. Pregnancy not turning minds to mush: Study
9. Turning freshwater farm ponds into crab farms
10. When nature calls
11. Study identifies new genetic signatures of breast cancer drug resistance
Post Your Comments:
(Date:10/27/2015)... YORK , Oct. 27, 2015 In ... major issues of concern for various industry verticals such ... is due to the growing demand for secure & ... in various ,sectors, such as hacking of bank accounts, ... for electronic equipment such as PC,s, laptops, and smartphones ...
(Date:10/26/2015)... LAS VEGAS , Oct. 26, 2015 /PRNewswire/ ... innovator in modern authentication and a founding member of ... of its latest version of the Nok Nok™ S3 ... use standards-based authentication that supports existing and emerging methods ... is ideal for organizations deploying customer-facing applications that require ...
(Date:10/22/2015)... 2015  Aware, Inc. (NASDAQ: AWRE ), a leading supplier ... third quarter ended September 30, 2015.  --> ... was $4.0 million, a decrease of 33% compared to $6.0 million ... quarter of 2015 was $2.2 million, or $0.10 per diluted share, ... the same period a year ago.  --> ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:11/25/2015)... ... November 25, 2015 , ... ... Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals (OPBAP) has been formalized with the signing of ... team leaders met with OPBAP leaders Capt. Karl Minter and Capt. Albert Glenn ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... ... November 24, 2015 , ... The United States Golf Association (USGA) ... USGA Green Section Award. Presented annually since 1961, the USGA Green Section Award recognizes ... with turfgrass. , Clarke, of Iselin, N.J., is an extension specialist of ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... Florida (PRWEB) , ... November 24, 2015 , ... ... biggest event of the year and one of the premier annual events for ... and ran from 8–11 November 2015, where ISPE hosted the largest number of ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... ... 24, 2015 , ... The Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA), led by its ... as Multirotor Grand Prix, to represent the First–Person View (FPV) racing community. , FPV ... embraced this type of racing and several new model aviation pilots have joined the ...
Breaking Biology Technology: