A new shark-inspired sensor technology has been able to spot subtle underwater electric fields, scientists at Purdue University announced this week.
Shark Sensors Detecting Underwater Electric Fields
These new sensors were inspired by a specialized organ found in the mouths of sharks. This is called the ampullae of Lorenzini. As described in the published research paper, this sensor technology works in the same way as the organ.
Namely, it detects subtle electrical signals emitted by lifeforms in the ocean. For sharks, this is their primary means of chasing after prey. For humans, though, this could open up a whole new world of exploration.
In terms of scientific research, this advanced type of sensors could significantly improve marine life study methods. Being able to tell where animals are more accurately than ever before could help increase our understanding of their behavior. In might also help understand more about the ecosystems they live in.
These sensors can also work at varying depth levels. This means it might now be easier to explore the currently unknown depths of the ocean without fear.
Ship-based travel could also be safer thanks to the ability to detect underwater electric fields. This way, captains will have a better idea of where other entities are in the waters around and below them, helping avoid accidents.
The research team developed these sensors by using samarium nickelate. This has the ability to conduct protons. The special properties of this compound allow the protons to pass in and out of it harmlessly.
This can cause a phase change that seamlessly turns it from conductor to insulator. It also makes it more transparent and slightly larger as it swells with protons. It’s also resistant to corrosion, meaning it can stay underwater close to indefinitely should nothing attack or destroy it.
While tests are still being run to see what this sensor can do, it’s already proving to be remarkably similar to the animal organ it’s based on. Should things pan out as they seem to be headed, undersea study and exploration might take a huge leap forward into the future.
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