Many marine animals perform fascinating survival hydrodynamics and perceive their surroundings through optimally evolved sensory systems. For instance, phocid seal whiskers have undulations that allow them to resist noisy self-induced vortex-induced vibrations (VIV) while locking their vibration frequencies to wakes generated by swimming fishes. In this work, fully 3D-printed microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) sensors with high gauge factor graphene nanoplatelets piezoresistors are developed to explain the exquisite sensitivity of whisker-inspired structures to upstream wakes. The sensors are also used to measure natural frequencies of excised harbor (Phoca vitulina) and grey (Halichoerus grypus) seal whiskers and determine the effect of whisker orientation on the VIV, which can explain the possible natural orientation of whiskers during active hunting. Experimental investigations conducted in a recirculating water flume show that whisker-inspired sensors successfully sense an upstream wake located up to 10× the whisker diameter by locking to the frequency of the wake generator, thus mimicking the sensing mechanism of the seal whisker. The combination of VIV reduction and frequency-locking with the upstream wake generator demonstrates the whisker-inspired sensor's high signal-to-noise ratio, indicating its efficiency in long-distance wake sensing as well as its potential as an alternative to visual and acoustic sensors in underwater robots.
- 3D printing
- seal whiskers