Automobile safety could also be enhanced. "If a driver is tired, or drunk, or falls asleep at the wheel, their hands might loosen or fall off the wheel," said Benjamin Tee, graduate student in electrical engineering and a coauthor. "If there are pressure sensors that can sense that no hands are holding the steering wheel, the car could be equipped with some automatic safety device that could sound an alarm or kick in to slow the car down. This could be simpler and cost less than other methods of detecting driver fatigue."
The team also invented a new type of transistor in which they used the structured, flexible rubber film to replace a component that is normally rigid in a typical transistor. When pressure is applied to their new transistor, the pressure causes a change in the amount of current that the transistor puts out. The new, flexible transistors could also be used in making artificial skin, Bao said.
As Bao's team continues its research, the members may find applications not yet considered as well as other ways to demonstrate the sensitivity of their sensors. They have already expanded their stable of insects beyond the bluebottle fly to include some beautiful, delicate looking albeit slightly heavier butterflies.
But if the researchers wanted an even more ethereal demonstration, could the sensors detect the bubbles rising in a glass of champagne?
"If the bubbles coming out from the champagne impinge onto the pressure sensor, that might be possible," Bao said. "That would be an interesting experiment to do in the lab."
|Contact: Louis Bergeron|