Magnetic Nanocomposite Cilia Sensors

  • Ahmed Alfadhel

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Recent progress in the development of artificial skin concepts is a result of the increased demand for providing environment perception such as touch and flow sensing to robots, prosthetics and surgical tools. Tactile sensors are the essential components of artificial skins and attracted considerable attention that led to the development of different technologies for mimicking the complex sense of touch in humans. This dissertation work is devoted to the development of a bioinspired tactile sensing technology that imitates the extremely sensitive hair-like cilia receptors found in nature. The artificial cilia are fabricated from permanent magnetic, biocompatible and highly elastic nanocomposite material, and integrated on a giant magneto-impedance magnetic sensor to measure the stray field. A force that bends the cilia changes the stray field and is therefore detected with the magnetic sensor, providing high performance in terms of sensitivity, power consumption and versatility. The nanocomposite is made of Fe nanowires (NWs) incorporated into polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS). Fe NWs have a high remanent magnetization, due the shape anisotropy; thus, they are acting as permanent nano-magnets. This allows remote device operation and avoids the need for a magnetic field to magnetize the NWs, benefiting miniaturization and the possible range of applications. The magnetic properties of the nanocomposite can be easily tuned by modifying the NWs concentration or by aligning the NWs to define a magnetic anisotropy. Tactile sensors are realized on flexible and rigid substrates that can detect flow, vertical and shear forces statically and dynamically, with a high resolution and wide operating range. The advantage to operate the sensors in liquids and air has been utilized to measure flows in different fluids in a microfluidic channel. Various dynamic studies were conducted with the tactile sensor demonstrating the detection of moving objects or the texture of objects. Overall, the results confirm the possibility to easily control the sensors’ performance with the cilia arrangement and dimensions. The cost effective mold-based microfabrication process and magnetic operation enable a high degree of integration, which together with the extremely low power consumption make the artificial cilia sensor reported in this dissertation an attractive solution for many applications.
Date of AwardJul 19 2016
Original languageEnglish (US)
Awarding Institution
  • Computer, Electrical and Mathematical Sciences and Engineering
SupervisorJurgen Kosel (Supervisor)


  • Tactile sensors
  • Nanowires
  • magnetic
  • Nanocomposite
  • Artificial Skin
  • Cilia

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