Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Transducers


A microfluidic device was developed to separate heterogeneous particle or cell mixtures in a continuous flow using acoustophoresis. In this device, two identical surface acoustic waves (SAWs) generated by interdigital transducers (IDTs) propagated toward a microchannel, which accordingly built up a standing surface acoustic wave (SSAW) field across the channel. A numerical model, coupling a piezoelectric effect in the solid substrate and acoustic pressure in the fluid, was developed to provide a better understanding of SSAW-based particle manipulation. It was found that the pressure nodes across the channel were individual planes perpendicular to the solid substrate. In the separation experiments, two side sheath flows hydrodynamically focused the injected particle or cell mixtures into a very narrow stream along the centerline. Particles flowing through the SSAW field experienced an acoustic radiation force that highly depends on the particle properties. As a result, dissimilar particles or cells were laterally attracted toward the pressure nodes at different magnitudes, and were eventually switched to different outlets. Two types of fluorescent microspheres with different sizes were successfully separated using the developed device. In addition, E. coli bacteria pre-mixed in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) were also efficiently isolated using the SSAW-base separation technique. Flow cytometric analysis on the collected samples found that the purity of separated E. coli bacteria was 95.65%.

Concepts: Protein, Bacteria, Escherichia coli, Acoustics, PBMC, Microphone, Transducers, Surface acoustic wave


We present a multifunctional tactile sensor inspired by human hairy skin structure, in which the sensitive hair sensor and the robust skin sensor are integrated into a single device via a pair of Co-based ferromagnetic microwire arrays in a very simple manner. The sensor possesses a self-tunable effective compliance with respect to the magnitude of the stimulus, allowing a wide range of loading force to be measured. The sensor also exhibits some amazing functions, such as air-flow detection, material property characterization, and excellent damage resistance. The novel sensing mechanism and structure provide a new strategy for designing multifunctional tactile sensors and show great potential applications on intelligent robot and sensing in harsh environments.

Concepts: Skin, Novel, Transducer, Hair, Hair follicle, Robot, Sensor, Transducers


Molecular-electronic transducers (MET) have a high conversion coefficient and low power consumption, and do not require precision mechanical components thus allowing the construction of cost- and power-efficient seismic accelerometers. Whereas the instrumental resolution of a MET accelerometer within the 0.1-100 Hz frequency range surpasses that of the best Micro-Electro Mechanical Systems (MEMS) and even some force-balanced accelerometers, the fundamental inability to register gravity or, in other words, zero frequency acceleration, significantly constrains the further spread of MET-based accelerometers. Ways of obviating this inherent zero frequency insensitivity within MET technology have so far, not been found. This article explores a possible approach to the construction of a hybrid seismic accelerometer combining the superb performance of a MET sensor in the middle and high frequency range with a conventional on chip MEMS accelerometer covering the lower frequencies and gravity. Though the frequency separation of a signal is widely used in various applications, the opposite task, i.e., the combining of two signals with different bandwidths is less common. Based on theoretical research and the analysis of actual sensors' performance, the authors determined optimal parameters for building a hybrid sensor. Description and results for implementation of the hybrid sensor are given in the Experimental section of the article. Completing a MET sensor with a cost-effective MEMS permitted the construction of a low noise DC accelerometer preserving the noise performance of a MET sensing element. The work presented herein may prove useful in designing other combined sensors based on different technologies.

Concepts: Signal processing, Frequency, Microelectromechanical systems, Transducer, Accelerometer, Measuring instruments, Sensor, Transducers


The piezoelectric characteristics of nanowires, thin films and bulk crystals have been closely studied for potential applications in sensors, transducers, energy conversion and electronics. With their high crystallinity and ability to withstand enormous strain, two-dimensional materials are of great interest as high-performance piezoelectric materials. Monolayer MoS2 is predicted to be strongly piezoelectric, an effect that disappears in the bulk owing to the opposite orientations of adjacent atomic layers. Here we report the first experimental study of the piezoelectric properties of two-dimensional MoS2 and show that cyclic stretching and releasing of thin MoS2 flakes with an odd number of atomic layers produces oscillating piezoelectric voltage and current outputs, whereas no output is observed for flakes with an even number of layers. A single monolayer flake strained by 0.53% generates a peak output of 15 mV and 20 pA, corresponding to a power density of 2 mW m(-2) and a 5.08% mechanical-to-electrical energy conversion efficiency. In agreement with theoretical predictions, the output increases with decreasing thickness and reverses sign when the strain direction is rotated by 90°. Transport measurements show a strong piezotronic effect in single-layer MoS2, but not in bilayer and bulk MoS2. The coupling between piezoelectricity and semiconducting properties in two-dimensional nanomaterials may enable the development of applications in powering nanodevices, adaptive bioprobes and tunable/stretchable electronics/optoelectronics.

Concepts: Scientific method, Crystal, Solar cell, Transducer, Piezoelectricity, Transducers


The presence of external elements is a major limitation of current hearing aids and cochlear implants, as they lead to discomfort and inconvenience. Totally implantable hearing devices have been proposed as a solution to mitigate these constraints, which has led to challenges in designing implantable sensors. This work presents a feasibility analysis of a MEMS piezoelectric accelerometer coupled to the ossicular chain as an alternative sensor. The main requirements of the sensor include small size, low internal noise, low power consumption, and large bandwidth. Different designs of MEMS piezoelectric accelerometers were modeled using Finite Element (FE) method, as well as optimized for high net charge sensitivity. The best design, a 2 × 2 mm2annular configuration with a 500 nm thick Aluminum Nitride (AlN) layer was selected for fabrication. The prototype was characterized, and its charge sensitivity and spectral acceleration noise were found to be with good agreement to the FE model predictions. Weak coupling between a middle ear FE model and the prototype was considered, resulting in equivalent input noise (EIN) lower than 60 dB sound pressure level between 600 Hz and 10 kHz. These results are an encouraging proof of concept for the development of MEMS piezoelectric accelerometers as implantable sensors for hearing devices.

Concepts: Aluminium, Sensorineural hearing loss, Sound, Microelectromechanical systems, Accelerometer, Microphone, Transducers, Piezoelectric accelerometer


Immunosensors are used to detect the presence of certain bio-reagents mostly targeted at the diagnosis of a condition or a disease. Here, a general purpose electrical immunosensor has been fabricated for the quantitative detection of multiple bio-reagents through the formation of an antibody-antigen pair. The sensors were fabricated using all printing approaches. 2D transition metal dichalcogenide (TMDC) MoS2 thin film was deposited using Electrohydrodynamic atomization (EHDA) on top of an interdigitated transducer (IDT) electrode fabricated by reverse offset printing. The sensors were then treated with three different types of antibodies that were immobilized by physisorption into the highly porous multi-layered structure of MoS2 active layer. BSA was used as blocking agent to prevent non-specific absorption (NSA). The sensors were then employed for the targeted detection of the specific antigens including prostate specific antigen (PSA), mouse immunoglobulin-G (IgG), and nuclear factor kappa-light-chain-enhancer of activated B cells (NF-κB). IgG was then selected to test the sensors for point of care (POC) diagnosis through a specially designed electronic readout system for sensors and interfacing it with a smartphone using Bluetooth connection. The sensors showed promising performance in terms of stability, specificity, repeatability, sensitivity, limit of detection (LoD), and range of detection (RoD).

Concepts: Immune system, Antibody, Protein, Antigen, Epitope, Printing, Transducers, Offset printing


Semiconducting nanomaterials are being intensively studied as active elements in bioelectronic devices, with the aim of improving spatial resolution. Yet, the consequences of size-reduction on fundamental noise limits, or minimum resolvable signals, and their impact on device design considerations have not been defined. Here, we address these key issues by quantifying the size-dependent performance and limiting factors of graphene (Gra) transducers under physiological conditions. We show that suspended Gra devices represent the optimal configuration for cardiac extracellular electrophysiology in terms of both transducer sensitivity, systematically ~5x higher than substrate-supported devices, and forming tight bioelectronic interfaces. Significantly, noise measurements on free-standing Gra together with theoretical calculations yield a direct relationship between low-frequency 1/f noise and water dipole-induced disorders, which sets fundamental sensitivity limits for Gra devices in physiological media. As a consequence, a square-root-of-area scaling of Gra transducer sensitivity was experimentally revealed to provide a critical design rule for their implementation in bioelectronics.

Concepts: Device, Transducer, Noise, Input device, Microphone, Transducers, Flicker noise, Pink noise


Many applications of ultrasound for sensing, actuation and imaging require miniaturized and low power transducers and transducer arrays integrated with electronic systems. Piezoelectric micromachined ultrasound transducers (PMUTs), diaphragm-like thin film flexural transducers typically formed on silicon substrates, are a potential solution for integrated transducer arrays. This paper presents an overview of the current development status of PMUTs and a discussion of their suitability for miniaturized and integrated devices. The thin film piezoelectric materials required to functionalize these devices are discussed, followed by the microfabrication techniques used to create PMUT elements and the constraints the fabrication imposes on device design. Approaches for electrical interconnection and integration with on-chip electronics are discussed. Electrical and acoustic measurements from fabricated PMUT arrays with up to 320 diaphragm elements are presented. The PMUTs are shown to be broadband devices with an operating frequency which is tunable by tailoring the lateral dimensions of the flexural membrane or the thicknesses of the constituent layers. Finally, the outlook for future development of PMUT technology and the potential applications made feasible by integrated PMUT devices are discussed.

Concepts: Medical ultrasonography, Ultrasound, Transducer, Electronics, Piezoelectricity, Microphone, Sonar, Transducers


Technical evaluation of swimming performance is an essential factor of elite athletic preparation. Novel methods of analysis, incorporating body worn inertial sensors (i.e., Microelectromechanical systems, or MEMS, accelerometers and gyroscopes), have received much attention recently from both research and commercial communities as an alternative to video-based approaches. This technology may allow for improved analysis of stroke mechanics, race performance and energy expenditure, as well as real-time feedback to the coach, potentially enabling more efficient, competitive and quantitative coaching. The aim of this paper is to provide a systematic review of the literature related to the use of inertial sensors for the technical analysis of swimming performance. This paper focuses on providing an evaluation of the accuracy of different feature detection algorithms described in the literature for the analysis of different phases of swimming, specifically starts, turns and free-swimming. The consequences associated with different sensor attachment locations are also considered for both single and multiple sensor configurations. Additional information such as this should help practitioners to select the most appropriate systems and methods for extracting the key performance related parameters that are important to them for analysing their swimmers' performance and may serve to inform both applied and research practices.

Concepts: Research, Microelectromechanical systems, Accelerometer, Sensor, Technical analysis, Swimming, Transducers, Jonathan Coachman


Immunosensors are biosensors based on interactions between an antibody and antigen on a transducer surface. Either antibody or antigen can be the species immobilized on the transducer to detect antigen or antibody, respectively. Because of the strong binding forces between these biomolecules, immunosensors present high selectivity and very high sensitivity, making them very attractive for many applications in different science fields. Electrochemical immunosensors explore measurements of an electrical signal produced on an electrochemical transductor. This signal can be voltammetric, potentiometric, conductometric or impedimetric. Immunosensors utilizing electrochemical detection have been explored in several analyses since they are specific, simple, portable, and generally disposable and can carry out in situ or automated detection. This review addresses the potential of immunosensors destined for application in food and environmental analysis, and cancer biomarker diagnosis. Emphasis is given to the approaches that have been used for construction of electrochemical immunosensors. Additionally, the fundamentals of immunosensors, technology of transducers and nanomaterials and a general overview of the possible applications of electrochemical immunosensors to the food, environmental and diseases analysis fields are described.

Concepts: Immune system, Carcinoma in situ, Science, Signal processing, Transducer, Microphone, Transducers, Potentiometer