An artificial vibrissa-like sensor for detection of flows
In nature, there are several examples of sophisticated sensory systems to sense flows, e.g., the vibrissae of mammals. Seals can detect the flow of their prey, and rats are able to perceive the flow of surrounding air. The vibrissae are arranged around muzzle of an animal. A vibrissa consists of two major components: a shaft (infector) and a follicle–sinus complex (receptor), whereby the base of the shaft is supported by the follicle-sinus complex. The vibrissa shaft collects and transmits stimuli, e.g., flows, while the follicle-sinus complex transduces them for further processing. Beside detecting flows, the animals can also recognize the size of an object or determine the surface texture. Here, the combination of these functionalities in a single sensory system serves as paragon for artificial tactile sensors. The detection of flows becomes important regarding the measurement of flow characteristics, e.g., velocity, as well as the influence of the sensor during the scanning of objects. These aspects are closely related to each other, but, how can the characteristics of flow be represented by the signals at the base of a vibrissa shaft or by an artificial vibrissa-like sensor respectively? In this work, the structure of a natural vibrissa shaft is simplified to a slender, cylindrical/tapered elastic beam. The model is analyzed in simulation and experiment in order to identify the necessary observables to evaluate flows based on the quasi-static large deflection of the sensor shaft inside a steady, non-uniform, laminar, in-compressible flow.