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Customized Intelligent Life-Inspired Arrays

Project description


Bio-inspired Intelligent Information Systems
Borrowing from biology to build better sensors

By mimicking the way some animals detect predators and prey, researchers are building a new generation of small, accurate sensors.

Working in the CILIA project, the researchers are developing mechanical devices that function in a similar way to the tiny motion-sensing hairs that help crickets, bats and fish to find food and avoid danger.

The team’s biologically inspired sensor systems have a potentially endless range of uses, from helping robots navigate, to monitoring pollution and checking the health of hospital patients. They could even be used to develop better hearing aids.

Inspired by nature

Highly effective sensory systems are found throughout nature. The tiny hairs on a cricket’s back detect the airflow caused by a predator creeping up on it. Fish have a lateral line along their bodies covered in tiny receptor organs called neuromasts that pick up on changes in the flow of water to detect other fish and obstacles.

Bats, meanwhile, use echolocation, shooting high frequency noise from their noses and then detecting the rebounding signals in a highly accurate form of biological sonar.

Mechanics to mimic biology

By reverse engineering biological sensory systems and studying how they work, the CILIA researchers are building mechanical replicas that could dramatically improve existing sensor technology.

The sensors are made up of tiny arrays of artificial hairs developed using micro-electronic mechanical systems (MEMS) technology. The mechanical sensors closely mimic their biological counterparts, with different versions designed for use in air and water.

The researchers are planning to put the sensors into different demonstrator systems. One is a mobile robot that uses the sensors to navigate, while another is modelled around a robotic bat head developed by the CILIA team in a previous project called CIRCE.

The robotic bat head accurately replicates the echolocation system of the flying mammals, and uses a transducer to convert electrical signals to noise and vice versa across the entire 20 to 200kHz spectrum used by different bat species.

Understanding what an animal senses

The researchers are also studying how crickets and fish use the information from their sensory systems.

The work should lead to new insights into how the animals determine the presence and precise location of an object or another animal in extremely different environments. It should also shed light on how they identify different sensory signals to decide what is a threat, what is food and what is just background ‘noise’.

Applications everywhere

The project partners foresee numerous commercial applications for their sensors. They could, for example, replace or supplement the visual and laser-based systems commonly used in robots for navigation. They could also be used to build smart clothes that monitor a person’s health or to monitor airflow over critical sections of an airplane wing.

Call for proposal

FP6-2004-IST-FETPI
See other projects for this call

Coordinator

FORSCHUNGSZENTRUM JULICH GMBH
Address
Wilhelm Johnen Strasse
52428 Julich
Germany
Activity type
Research Organisations
EU contribution
€ 1 303 758

Participants (8)

UNIVERSITEIT ANTWERPEN
Belgium
EU contribution
€ 661 393
Address
Prinsstraat 13
2000 Antwerpen
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
SHANDONG UNIVERSITY
China
EU contribution
€ 257 168
Address
Shanda Nanlu 27
250000 Jinan Shandong
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
TECHNISCHE UNIVERSITAET MUENCHEN
Germany
EU contribution
€ 190 000
Address
Arcisstrasse 21
80333 Muenchen
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
RHEINISCHE FRIEDRICH-WILHELMS-UNIVERSITAT BONN
Germany
EU contribution
€ 832 060
Address
Regina Pacis Weg 3
53113 Bonn
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
SYDDANSK UNIVERSITET
Denmark
EU contribution
€ 554 906
Address
Campusvej 55
5230 Odense M
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
UNIVERSITE DE TOURS
France
EU contribution
€ 675 760
Address
Rue Du Plat D Etain 60
37020 Tours
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
UNIVERSITEIT TWENTE
Netherlands
EU contribution
€ 917 822
Address
Drienerlolaan 5
7522 NB Enschede
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
THE UNIVERSITY OF READING
United Kingdom
EU contribution
€ 432 133
Address
Whiteknights Campus Whiteknights House
RG6 6AH Reading
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments