London, July 15 : US scientists at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign say that they have created artificial whiskers that work just like animals' hair, which they use to probe their environment.
Chang Liu, who led the project, said that the team has basically developed polymer hairs sitting on silicon microchips that can be used as a sensitive and cheap way to monitor nearby objects, as well as the flow of air or water.
Describing the design of this innovation, the researcher said that it consisted of an artificial hair deposited on a silicon substrate, and connected it by a flexible hinge.
Liu said that the hinge would bend when a magnetic field was applied, causing the hairs to stand up straight.
The researcher also said that the hairs could be embedded in a polymer skin for protection.
According to New Scientist magazine, Liu said that the movement a hair could be monitored as it bent, a process that would change its resistance, creating an artificial hair cell that could "sense" its environment.
The journal also said that the researchers found the idea to work well in prototypes.
Liu said that the silicon hairs could cover aerodynamic models in wind tunnels giving immediate feedback on wind speed.
Rising and lowering the hairs could even modify the airflow, and the amount of lift produced by the model.
US agency NASA, which funded the work, is said to have evinced interest in the artificial whiskers. (ANI)
© 2007 ANI