Seal Whisker-like Sensors ensure safety of boats and submarines

Following the news briefing and news release on 20 Aug 2013, Lianhe Zaobao (Singapore’s Chinese Morning Newspapers) published a story on CENSAM’s Whisker-like Sensors. The translated summary is as follows:

Harbour seal’s whiskers are very sensitive, and are able to detect the tracks left by the fish. A group of researchers have leveraged this and produced Whisker-like sensors which will help ensure safety of those at sea.

This research by SMART, and funded by NRF, started two years ago.

SMART Principal Investigator, Prof Michael Traintafyllou said that the seals’ whiskers are able to sense the position and speed of any creature. This helps the seals to effectively swim and capture their prey. This is why they emulate the seal whiskers, which embodies undulations, and adapt it for use as sensors for ships and submarines.

The Whisker-like Sensors can sense even in dark and murky water. This is in contrast to traditional underwater sensors which depend on visual aids and sonars. Hence, making it more suitable for deep sea use and the oil industry.

SMART Research Scientist, Pablo Valdivia y Alvarado, said, “These sensors enable ships to sail more effectively as it is able to sense things or structures in front of it, and prevent collision.” 

The sensors can also sense water current direction, and aid the ship to go along the water flow, such that the ship and submarines sail with the current (in a zig-zag fashion) to save energy by up to 20%.