Artificial fish skin of self-powered micro-electromechanical systems hair cells for sensing hydrodynamic flow phenomena

Mohsen Asadnia, Ajay Giri Prakash Kottapalli, Jianmin Miao*, Majid Ebrahimi Warkiani, Michael S. Triantafyllou

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

117 Citations (Scopus)


Using biological sensors, aquatic animals like fishes are capable of performing impressive behaviours such as super-manoeuvrability, hydrodynamic flow 'vision' and object localization with a success unmatched by humanengineered technologies. Inspired by the multiple functionalities of the ubiquitous lateral-line sensors of fishes, we developed flexible and surfacemountable arrays of micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS) artificial hair cell flow sensors. This paper reports the development of the MEMS artificial versions of superficial and canal neuromasts and experimental characterization of their unique flow-sensing roles. Our MEMS flow sensors feature a stereolithographically fabricated polymer hair cell mounted on Pb(Zr0.52-Ti0.48)O3 micro-diaphragm with floating bottom electrode. Canal-inspired versions are developed by mounting a polymer canal with pores that guide external flows to the hair cells embedded in the canal. Experimental results conducted employing our MEMS artificial superficial neuromasts (SNs) demonstrated a high sensitivity and very low threshold detection limit of 22 mV/(mm s21) and 8.2 mm s21, respectively, for an oscillating dipole stimulus vibrating at 35 Hz. Flexible arrays of such superficial sensors were demonstrated to localize an underwater dipole stimulus. Comparative experimental studies revealed a high-pass filtering nature of the canal encapsulated sensors with a cut-off frequency of 10 Hz and a flat frequency response of artificial SNs. Flexible arrays of self-powered, miniaturized, light-weight, low-cost and robust artificial lateral-line systems could enhance the capabilities of underwater vehicles.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20150322
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of the Royal Society Interface
Issue number111
Publication statusPublished - 6 Oct 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Biomimetic sensors
  • Canal neuromast
  • Piezoelectric flow sensor
  • Superficial neuromast
  • Underwater sensing


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