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Hair cell inspired mechanotransduction with a gel-supported, artificial lipid membrane

Publication Type:

Journal Article


SOFT MATTER, Volume 7, Number 10, p.4644-4653 (2011)


A gel-supported lipid bilayer formed at the base of an artificial hair
is used as the transduction element in an artificial, membrane-based
hair cell sensor inspired by the structure and function of mammalian
hair cells. This paper describes the initial fabrication and
characterization of a bioderived, soft-material alternative to previous
artificial hair cells that used the transduction properties of synthetic
materials for flow and touch sensing. Under an applied air flow, the
artificial hair structure vibrates, triggering a picoamp-level
electrical current across the lipid bilayer. Experimental analysis of
this mechanoelectrical transduction process supports the hypothesis that
the current is produced by a time-varying change in the capacitance of
the membrane caused by the vibration of the hair. Specifically,
frequency analysis of both the motion of the hair and the measured
current show that both phenomena occur at similar frequencies (0.1-1.0
kHz), which suggests that changes in capacitance occur as a result of
membrane bending during excitation. In this paper, the bilayer-based
hair cell sensor is experimentally characterized to understand the
effects of transmembrane potential, the applied air flow, and the
dimensions of the hair.