Force sensitive carbon nanotube arrays for biologically inspired airflow sensing

Matthew R. Maschmann, Ben Dickinson, Gregory J. Ehlert, Jeffery W. Baur

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The compressive electromechanical response of aligned carbon nanotube (CNT) arrays is evaluated for use as an artificial hair sensor (AHS) transduction element. CNT arrays with heights of 12, 75, and 225 μm are examined. The quasi-static and dynamic sensitivity to force, response time, and signal drift are examined within the range of applied stresses predicted by a mechanical model applicable to the conceptual CNT array-based AHS (0-1 kPa). Each array is highly sensitive to compressive loading, with a maximum observed gauge factor of 114. The arrays demonstrate a repeatable response to dynamic cycling after a break-in period of approximately 50 cycles. Utilizing a four-wire measurement electrode configuration, the change in contact resistance between the array and the electrodes is observed to dominate the electromechanical response of the arrays. The response time of the CNT arrays is of the order of 10 ms. When the arrays are subjected to constant stress, mechanical creep is observed that results in a signal drift that generally diminishes the responsiveness of the arrays, particularly at stress approaching 1 kPa. The results of this study serve as a preliminary proof of concept for utilizing CNT arrays as a transduction mechanism for a proposed artificial hair sensor. Such a low profile and light-weight flow sensor is expected to have application in a number of applications including navigation and state awareness of small air vehicles, similar in function to natural hair cell receptors utilized by insects and bats.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number094024
JournalSmart Materials and Structures
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2012
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Signal Processing
  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics
  • Materials Science(all)
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


Dive into the research topics of 'Force sensitive carbon nanotube arrays for biologically inspired airflow sensing'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this