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Crocodile-inspired dome-shaped pressure receptors for passive hydrodynamic sensing.


Passive mechanosensing is an energy-efficient and effective recourse for autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) for perceiving their surroundings. The passive sensory organs of aquatic animals have provided inspiration to biomimetic researchers for developing underwater passive sensing systems for AUVs. This work is inspired by the 'integumentary sensory organs' (ISOs) which are dispersed on the skin of crocodiles and are equipped with slowly adapting (SA) and rapidly adapting (RA) receptors. ISOs assist crocodiles in locating the origin of a disturbance, both on the water surface and under water, thereby enabling them to hunt prey even in a dark environment and turbid waters. In this study, we construct SA dome receptors embedded with microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) piezoresistive sensors to measure the steady-state pressures imparted by flows and RA dome receptors embedded with MEMS piezoelectric sensors to detect oscillatory pressures in water. Experimental results manifest the ability of SA and RA dome receptors to sense the direction of steady-state flows and oscillatory disturbances, respectively. As a proof of concept, the SA domes are tested on the hull of a kayak under various pressure variations owing to different types of movements of the hull. Our results indicate that the dome receptors are capable of discerning the angle of attack and speed of the flow.