The Air Force Research Laboratory was inspired by the hairs on bats and crickets in creation of artificial hair sensors that could assess the external environment and change maneuvers during flight. The need to understand ambient air data and its effects on aircraft performance, navigation, and more has become more critical as aircraft are now lighter and operate in diverse environments.
The Artificial Hair Sensor team created the sensors using carbon nanotube forests grown inside glass fiber capillaries. The hairs are sensitive to airflow changes during flight, enabling quick response by fliers. The sensors work when air flows over the fiber, compressing the carbon nanotube, causing a change in the resistance between the electrodes.