20 May 2009 Electric fish as natural models for technical sensor systems
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Instead of vision, many animals use alternative senses for object detection. Weakly electric fish employ "active electrolocation", during which they discharge an electric organ emitting electrical current pulses (electric organ discharges, EOD). Local EODs are sensed by electroreceptors in the fish's skin, which respond to changes of the signal caused by nearby objects. Fish can gain information about attributes of an object, such as size, shape, distance, and complex impedance. When close to the fish, each object projects an 'electric image' onto the fish's skin. In order to get information about an object, the fish has to analyze the object's electric image by sampling its voltage distribution with the electroreceptors. We now know a great deal about the mechanisms the fish use to gain information about objects in their environment. Inspired by the remarkable capabilities of weakly electric fish in detecting and recognizing objects with their electric sense, we are designing technical sensor systems that can solve similar sensing problems. We applied the principles of active electrolocation to devices that produce electrical current pulses in water and simultaneously sense local current densities. Depending on the specific task, sensors can be designed which detect an object, localize it in space, determine its distance, and measure certain object properties such as material properties, thickness, or material faults. We present first experiments and FEM simulations on the optimal sensor arrangement regarding the sensor requirements e. g. localization of objects or distance measurements. Different methods of the sensor read-out and signal processing are compared.
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Gerhard von der Emde, Herbert Bousack, Christina Huck, Kavita Mayekar, Michael Pabst, and Yi Zhang "Electric fish as natural models for technical sensor systems", Proc. SPIE 7365, Bioengineered and Bioinspired Systems IV, 73650B (20 May 2009); doi: 10.1117/12.821668; https://doi.org/10.1117/12.821668

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