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Dissertation Defense

Tactile Sensing Based on Gallium Nitride Light-Emitting Diodes

Nathan A. Dvorak
1005 EECS BuildingMap
Nathan A. Dvorak Defense Photo

PASSCODE: 131534


A novel tactile sensor, MichTac, is proposed and demonstrated. MichTac uses gallium nitride (GaN) light-emitting diodes nanopillars. Tactile sensing modes demonstrate shear force measurement in ambient and extreme conditions, contact patch measurement, force mapping, high frequency response, tactile morse code reading, and liquid leak detections. MichTac detects tactile sensation by monitoring the shear force applied on the nanopillars. This shear force causes the electrons and holes to separate in the radial direction and reduces the light intensity emitted from the nanopillars. We developed a toolkit to custom design MichTac based on the intended application.

Our MichTac sensor goes beyond the ordinary; it decodes micro-scale messages like a robotic Braille reader, detects micro leaks in pipes, and achieves tactile perception within a region which simulates the hull of the International Space Station. What sets this innovation apart is its incredible sensitivity, adaptability, and resilience. Its compact size and myriad of sensing elements enable seamless integration into diverse applications, from artificial skins to expansive robotic systems. Furthermore, the sensor employs a sophisticated method of measuring intensity changes, adapting dynamically to different surfaces and maintaining accuracy even in the face of potential damage. In essence, our MichTac sensor provides a novel and robust method for tactile perception. Opening new frontiers in medicine, industry, and beyond, it enables robots with superhuman touch to comprehend, manipulate, and navigate the world.


CHAIR: Professor Pei-Cheng Ku