Micromachined semi-circular canals: Bio-inspired approaches for rotational Inertial sensing

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Alrowais, Hommood
Brand, Oliver
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The human vestibular system maintains visual acuity and stabilizes posture and gait. Failure in the vestibular system can lead to debilitating symptoms of vertigo, disequilibrium, and imbalance. Some patients suffering from vestibular dysfunction in both inner ears (bilateral), there is currently no effective therapy. For individuals suffering from bilateral vestibular dysfunction an emerging option may be a vestibular prosthesis. A significant obstacle hindering progress of vestibular prostheses is the power consumed by angular rotation sensors (gyroscopes). Commercial gyroscopes are actively driven thus consume power continuously. In contrast, the mammalian vestibular system uses the motion of the body to power the sensor. This passive approach paired with a low power transduction mechanism could be a sensing solution for vestibular implants. Nature has developed efficient and simple sensors, actuators and mechanisms that allow for high performance with limited resources. These advantages inspired engineers and designers to base their designs on these natural structures. In this work, a micromachined sensor platform inspired by the semicircular canal in mammalian vestibular systems is developed using two transduction mechanisms (thermal and magnetic). The platform demonstrates two orders of magnitude suppression of cross-axis angular accelerations and inherent insensitivity of the sensor to linear accelerations from its geometrical constraints. The thermal design validates and verifies the potential of the toroidal platform as a rotational inertial sensing system with a resolution around 30 deg/s^2 and a dynamic range of 2,000 deg/s^2.
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