Ultrasensitive mechanical crack-based sensor inspired by the spider sensory system

Nature. 2014 Dec 11;516(7530):222-6. doi: 10.1038/nature14002.


Recently developed flexible mechanosensors based on inorganic silicon, organic semiconductors, carbon nanotubes, graphene platelets, pressure-sensitive rubber and self-powered devices are highly sensitive and can be applied to human skin. However, the development of a multifunctional sensor satisfying the requirements of ultrahigh mechanosensitivity, flexibility and durability remains a challenge. In nature, spiders sense extremely small variations in mechanical stress using crack-shaped slit organs near their leg joints. Here we demonstrate that sensors based on nanoscale crack junctions and inspired by the geometry of a spider's slit organ can attain ultrahigh sensitivity and serve multiple purposes. The sensors are sensitive to strain (with a gauge factor of over 2,000 in the 0-2 per cent strain range) and vibration (with the ability to detect amplitudes of approximately 10 nanometres). The device is reversible, reproducible, durable and mechanically flexible, and can thus be easily mounted on human skin as an electronic multipixel array. The ultrahigh mechanosensitivity is attributed to the disconnection-reconnection process undergone by the zip-like nanoscale crack junctions under strain or vibration. The proposed theoretical model is consistent with experimental data that we report here. We also demonstrate that sensors based on nanoscale crack junctions are applicable to highly selective speech pattern recognition and the detection of physiological signals. The nanoscale crack junction-based sensory system could be useful in diverse applications requiring ultrahigh displacement sensitivity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomimetics / methods*
  • Humans
  • Mechanotransduction, Cellular / physiology
  • Movement*
  • Music
  • Nanotechnology / instrumentation
  • Nanotechnology / methods*
  • Pattern Recognition, Automated / methods*
  • Platinum / chemistry
  • Pliability
  • Pressure
  • Skin
  • Sound*
  • Speech
  • Spiders / anatomy & histology
  • Spiders / physiology*
  • Vibration*
  • Wings, Animal / physiology


  • Platinum