Korean researchers have mimicked the design of a spider organ called the slit sensilla and developed a new sensor that is flexible, tiny and sensitive enough to detect human speech and even heartbeats.
The slit sensilla are parallel slits situated near the joints of a spider’s legs and can detect even the tiniest vibrations. The nearby sound waves deform the shape of the slit, thereby sending a signal to the spider’s brain helping it to sense any movement. In the American wandering spider (species Cupinnius salei), this organ is an important part of the mating ritual. The male spiders rustle the leave to the attention of the females, and the females detect the rustling using their slit sensilla.
The new sensor, which is developed on this basis, might be used to detect speeches and heart rates on wearable electronic devices. However, it won’t be as sensitive as the real thing. Monsoo Choi, a mechanical engineer from Seoul National University in Korea, said that this new sensor consists of a platinum film on top of the soft polymer with cracks in it. The vibrations produced from the sound waves cause the cracks to compress or stretch, and this changes the resistance of an electrical circuit.
When there is no vibrations, the platinum film lies flat without any cracks. Therefore, no electrical currents run through the film. Vibrations stretch the film, breaking the cracks open and blocking more of the electric current. These signals can be interpreted in a manner similar to the one the spider’s organ motions which are interpreted by its brain.
Tests were conducted and a violin was played. The sensor was able to accurately record every note of the song played on the instrument. Now, the researchers are remaking the sensor with cheaper material like aluminum or copper instead of platinum. Researchers hope to have it in the market within the next 5 years. Yes, 5 more years of waiting to have your own spidey sense! Well, it might be worth the wait.