We have seen how the world of nanotechnology has delivered the likes of electronic skin and electronic eye implants? How about the likes of electronic whiskers? This is definitely new, where researchers from Berkeley Lab and the University of California (UC) Berkeley have managed to come up with tactile sensors from composite films of carbon nanotubes and silver nanoparticles which are not too different from the highly sensitive whiskers of cats and rats. These are a new breed of e-whiskers which respond to pressure as little as a single Pascal, which is roughly similar to pressure exerted on a table surface by a dollar bill.
What is the whole point of electronic whiskers? Surely we will not see existing animals getting such implants in the near future? Well, there has been robots in the past that resembled animals, so how about outfitting them with such whiskers? There are plenty of potential applications that one can think of, including offering robots new abilities to “see” and “feel” their surrounding environment.
Ali Javey, the leader of this research project who is also a faculty scientist in Berkeley Lab’s Materials Sciences Division and a UC Berkeley professor of electrical engineering and computer science, shared, “Whiskers are hair-like tactile sensors used by certain mammals and insects to monitor wind and navigate around obstacles in tight spaces. Our electronic whiskers consist of high-aspect-ratio elastic fibers coated with conductive composite films of nanotubes and nanoparticles. In tests, these whiskers were 10 times more sensitive to pressure than all previously reported capacitive or resistive pressure sensors.” [Press Release]