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June 20, 2005

Crickets are name of the game in scientists' drive to help deaf

From: Scotsman - Edinburgh,Scotland,UK - Jun 20, 2005

SUPER-SENSITIVE sound detectors based on the method used by crickets to spot predators have been created in a laboratory to help develop new implants for deaf people.

The sensors will also have a range of other research applications, such as measuring air flows over aircraft.

Crickets spend most of their lives on the ground, making them vulnerable to predators such as wasps and spiders.

Species like the wood cricket have developed a pair of hairy appendages on their abdomens called cerci which can detect the smallest fluctuations in air currents, enabling them to escape from attacking predators.

Physicists at the University of Twente in the Netherlands built their own version of the system with up to a few hundred artificial hairs.

The fine plastic hairs are attached to membranes with built-in electrodes and capacitors.

The scientists hope that the structures might lead to more sophisticated and efficient ear implants.