Insect-Inspired Distributed Flow-Sensing: Fluid-Mediated Coupling Between Sensors

  • Gijs J. M. KrijnenEmail author
  • Thomas Steinmann
  • Ram K. Jaganatharaja
  • Jérôme Casas
Part of the Springer Series in Materials Science book series (SSMATERIALS, volume 282)


Crickets and other arthropods are evolved with numerous flow-sensitive hairs on their body. These sensory hairs have garnered interest among scientists resulting in the development of bio-inspired artificial hair-shaped flow sensors. Flow-sensitive hairs are arranged in dense arrays, both in natural and bio-inspired cases. Do the hair-sensors which occur in closely-packed settings affect each other’s performance by so-called viscous coupling? Answering this question is key to the optimal arrangement of hair-sensors for future applications. In this work viscous coupling is investigated from two angles. First, what does the existence of many hairs at close mutual distance mean for the flow profiles? How is the air-flow around a hair changed by it’s neighbours proximity? Secondly, in what way do the incurred differences in air-flow profile alter the drag-torque on the hairs and their subsequent rotations? The first question is attacked both from a theoretical approach as well as by experimental investigations using particle image velocimetry to observe air flow profiles around regular arrays of millimeter sized micro-machined pillar structures. Both approaches confirm significant reductions in flow-velocity for high density hair arrays in dependence of air-flow frequency. For the second set of questions we used dedicated micro-fabricated chips consisting of artificial hair-sensors to controllably and reliably investigate viscous coupling effects between hair-sensors. The experimental results confirm the presence of coupling effects (including secondary) between hair-sensors when placed at inter-hair distances of less than 10 hair diameters (d). Moreover, these results give a thorough insight into viscous coupling effects. Insight which can be used equally well to further our understanding of the biological implications of high density arrays as well as have a better base for the design of biomimetic artificial hair-sensor arrays where spatial resolution needs to be balanced by sufficiently mutually decoupled hair-sensor responses.



We like to acknowledge the financial contribution of the European Union and the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO), section Applied and Engineering Sciences, to the research presented in this work. We are grateful for the very stimulating collaboration we have had with our colleagues in the Cilia and Cicada EU projects and Greg Lewin for running his FEM code with our MEMS sensor data. We thank Y. Brechetand and Yuri Estrin for their continued interest in this work. Finally we are indebted to B. Bathellier, F. Barth and J. Humphrey\(^\dagger \) and their colleagues for their pivotal work on the subject of viscous coupling in arthropods as well as for the many discussions we had over the years.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gijs J. M. Krijnen
    • 1
    Email author
  • Thomas Steinmann
    • 2
  • Ram K. Jaganatharaja
    • 1
  • Jérôme Casas
    • 2
  1. 1.TechMed CentreUniversity of TwenteEnschedeThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Institute de Recherche en Biologie de l’InsecteUniversité de ToursFrance

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