Cat-like ‘hearing’ for the augmented human with device at smallest scale yet.

Human augmentation is the attempt to temporarily or permanently enhance the human body through natural or artificial means.  More commonly cybernetics and/or enabling human-computer interfaces are used to enhance the body and mind.  However, human augmentation is also being supplemented by evolving basic technologies combining sensors, wearable computing, the Internet of Things, and artificial intelligence.  Now, a study from researchers at Case Western Reserve University develops a cat-like ‘hearing’ device 10,000,000,000,000 times smaller than human eardrum.  The team state that their advances will likely contribute to making the next generation of ultralow-power communications and sensory devices smaller and with greater detection and tuning ranges.  The opensource study is published in the journal Science Advances.

Previous studies show that sensing and communication are key to a connected world.  In recent decades, humanity has been connected with highly miniaturized devices and systems, with the global medical community pursuing ever-shrinking sizes for those devices.  However, there are key challenges with miniaturization, such as achieving a broader dynamic range of detection, for small signals, such as sound, vibration, and radio waves.  It is therefore highly desirable to develop transducers which can handle signals without losing or compromising information.  The current study moves towards these tranducers by demonstrating the capability of their key components, namely, the atomic layer drumheads or resonators-at the smallest scale yet.

The current study is developing atomically thin drumheads able to receive and transmit signals across a radio frequency range far greater than what can be heard with the human ear.  The vibrating nanoscale drumheads developed are made of atomic layers of semiconductor crystals with diameters only about 1 micron.  They are constructed by exfoliating individual atomic layers from the bulk semiconductor crystal and using a combination of nanofabrication and micromanipulation techniques to suspend the atomic layers over micro-cavities pre-defined on a silicon wafer, and then making electrical contacts to the devices.

The group state that their drumhead is tens of trillions times smaller in volume and 100,000 times thinner than the human eardrum.  They go on to add that their work represents the highest reported dynamic range for vibrating transducers of their type; to date, that range had only been attained by much larger transducers operating at much lower frequencies-like the human eardrum.

The team surmise they have demonstrated a successful prototype for a nanoscale cybernetic sensory device which could augment human-beings and afford them cat-like hearing.  For the future, the researchers state their unique combination of ultrasmall device volume, very wide frequency tunability, and broad DR has important implications for enabling novel sensing and signal processing functions in these atomically thin nanostructures.

Source: Case Western Reserve University


augmented human


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