Vibration sensing is important for sensing failure of instrumentation or found sound and vibration measurements. Technology for detecting sound has existed for a long time and usually employs a variety of microphones. However, vibration is difficult to measure easily. There have been many reports of utilization of microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) based technology such as this one from Analog Devices that measures the vibration or strain through mechanically vibrating a component that is then measured accurately.
A group of researchers in Seoul have come up with a new way to measure vibration and strength using the same technology that is embedded in a spider's feet. Vibration is important for a spider not only to detect when a prey has been caught but also to recognize and get the attention of its mate. The spiders feet consists of minute cracks that are embedded with neurons. Any vibration changes the gap in the cracks and thus stimulates the neurons.
The researchers published a paper in Nature that described how they had fractured a platinum layer on top of a flexible substrate to produce a sensor. The cracks on the surface of platinum act as a variable resistor and if the cracks changed in the gap then the resistance of the sensor changed. A simple concept but far reaching in its ability to sense even minute vibrations. They further created a more sensitive sensor by forming an array of these sensors. This sensor thus is flexible so can be put on the skin or on any surface and since sound is also minute vibrations, it can function as a very sensitive microphones.
The next step in the development of the sensor would be to create finished products that can be deployed by device makers.