A nanonewton-scale biomimetic mechanosensor

Microsyst Nanoeng. 2023 Jul 11:9:87. doi: 10.1038/s41378-023-00560-w. eCollection 2023.


Biomimetic mechanosensors have profound implications for various areas, including health care, prosthetics, human‒machine interfaces, and robotics. As one of the most important parameters, the sensitivity of mechanosensors is intrinsically determined by the detection resolution to mechanical force. In this manuscript, we expand the force detection resolution of current biomimetic mechanosensors from the micronewton to nanonewton scale. We develop a nanocrack-based electronic whisker-type mechanosensor that has a detection resolution of 72.2 nN. We achieve the perception of subtle mechanical stimuli, such as tiny objects and airflow, and the recognition of surface morphology down to a 30 nm height, which is the finest resolution ever reported in biomimetic mechanosensors. More importantly, we explore the use of this mechanosensor in wearable devices for sensing gravity field orientation with respect to the body, which has not been previously achieved by these types of sensors. We develop a wearable smart system for sensing the body's posture and movements, which can be used for remote monitoring of falls in elderly people. In summary, the proposed device offers great advantages for not only improving sensing ability but also expanding functions and thus can be used in many fields not currently served by mechanosensors.

Keywords: Electrical and electronic engineering; Electronic properties and materials.