Yu and Liu Receive New Patent

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Associate Professor Miao Yu and postdoctoral researcher Haijun Liu Ph.D. ’12

Mechanical Engineering Associate Professor Miao Yu and postdoctoral researcher Haijun Liu Ph.D. ’12 received a patent for a miniature system and method for sensing and localizing acoustic sounds.

The system was inspired by the Ormia ochracea, a small, parasitoid fly known for its exceptionally acute directional hearing that the fly uses to locate the cricket hosts on which they lay their eggs.

The patent, "Biology-inspired miniature system and method for sensing and localizing acoustic signals,"  (U.S. Patent 8,503,693, August 6, 2013) is part of a sensing system with at least one directional sensor. Each of the directional sensors must include "at least two compliant membranes for moving in reaction to an excitation acoustic signal and at least one compliant bridge," according to the patent document.  

The patent is also for a method of sensing sound that includes sensing an "excitation acoustic signal" by at least two membranes that vibrate in response to sound. The researchers’ technology can also determine the direction from which the sound originates.

Yu, Liu, and collaborators from the U.S. Army Research Laboratory recently published their work in Nature's Scientific Reports in a piece titled "Understanding and mimicking the dual optimality of the fly ear." The Ormia ochracea has an ear that is optimized to have maximum directional sensitivity and minimum nonlinearity at five kHz. This frequency is the same frequency of the fly's host cricket’s calling song. The researchers then incorporated this unique dual-optimality characteristic into a synthetic fly-ear sized miniature device and demonstrated its exceptional sound source localization on a 1-D robotic platform.

According to the researchers, this type of bio-inspired, micro-sensing system could be used in applications that require miniature acoustic arrays, such as acoustic communication and navigation in micro-air vehicles. The system could also be used to reduce the size and improve the performance of ear canal hearing aid devices.

Yu and Liu incorporated two previously published works into the patent. "Microscale Implementation of a Bio-Inspired Acoustic Localization Device" presents a microscale implementation of an acoustic localization device inspired by the Ormia ochracea and was published in SPIE Proceedings Volume 7321, Bio-Inspired/Biomimetic Sensor Technologies and Applications. "Fly-ear Inspired Miniature Directional Microphones: Modeling and Experimental Study" was presented at the 2007 ASME International Mechanical Engineering Congress and Exposition and presents a microphone design inspired by the same fly.

For more information about Yu and her research, visit her faculty profile page.

Published August 26, 2013