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4 April 2012 Investigation of fluids as filling of a biomimetic infrared sensor based on the infrared receptors of pyrophilous insects
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The beetle Melanophila acuminata is highly dependent on forest fires. The burned wood serves as food for the larvae and the adults copulate on the burned areas to put their eggs in the freshly burned trees. To be able to detect forest fires from great distances the beetle developed a highly sensitive infrared receptor which works according to a photomechanical principle. The beetle has two pit organs, one on each lateral side, of which each houses around 70 dome shaped infrared receptors. These IR-receptors consist of a hard outer cuticular shell and an inner microfluidic core. When IR-radiation is absorbed, the pressure in the core increases due to the thermal expansion. This results in a deflection of a dendritic tip of a mechanosensitiv neuron which generates the signal. This biological principle was transferred into a new kind of un-cooled technical infrared receptor. To demonstrate the functional principle and the feasibility of this IR-sensor a macroscopic demonstrator sensor was build. It consisted of an inner fluid filled cavity (pressure chamber), an IR-transmissive window and a membrane. The deflection of the membrane due to the absorbed IR-energy was measured by a sensitive commercial capacitive sensor. In the experiments ethanol with added black ink, a mix of ethanol and glucose with additional absorber, air with additional absorber and water were used as fillings of the cavity and compared against each other. In order to get insights into the physics of the results of the experiments accompanying simulations using FEM methods and analytical calculations have been performed. The results showed that ethanol and air as fillings of the cavity caused the largest deflection of the membrane. Furthermore it turned out that the thermal expansion of the sensor housing material has an important influence. The comparison of the measured deflection with calculated deflections showed a good concordance.
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T. Kahl, N. Li, H. Schmitz, and H. Bousack "Investigation of fluids as filling of a biomimetic infrared sensor based on the infrared receptors of pyrophilous insects", Proc. SPIE 8339, Bioinspiration, Biomimetics, and Bioreplication 2012, 833912 (4 April 2012);

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