What's one of the most sensitive audio detectors in nature? Apparently cricket hairs. According to the Institute of Physics, "Cricket hairs are incredibly energy efficient sensors, and crickets are thought to perceive flows with energies as small as or even below thermal noise levels (the background noise caused by the Brownian motion of particles)." Their article describes how Dutch scientists at the University of Twente have built artifical-cricket-hair vibration sensors in the lab. Some photos can be seen at Roland Piquepaille's blog.
Interestingly, this project is part of a larger EU-wide biomimetic research group, CICADA, whose mission is to "Transfer knowledge from the sensing-perception-action mechanisms in insects escaping danger to the development of highly integrated artificial life-like miniature systems based on Micro Electro Mechanical Systems (MEMS) and Bio-Electronic technologies."
The cricket-hair sensors may be developed for small and super-low-power implantable hearing aids, but even wider potentials arise from their distributed nature. For instance, "we could use them to visualise airflow on surfaces, such as an aircraft fuselage."
Now what I'd really like to see is distributed vibration-absorbers that are not merely sensors, but generators. Wouldn't it be nice if urban noise pollution could be eliminated and turned into power instead? Actually, most of the power input from such a system would be from wind, not from noise, but picture a wind-farm that is not made of a few dozen rotating propeller-blades, but made of a few million bending grass-blades.
That's a lovely thought, Jer.
Especially the bit about :
"picture a wind-farm that is not made of a few dozen rotating propeller-blades, but made of a few million bending grass-blades."
the answer, my friend...
On sunday I was sitting on my front lawn, thinking that same thought: what if all the lawn space on my block could be distributed power generation.