Monitor and control of cockroach locomotion with piezoelectric sensors



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Monitoring and controlling of insects are of great scientific and engineering interests based on the potential impacts on environments, search and rescue operations, and robotics design. This research focuses on studying insects? locomotive behavior by employing noninvasive piezoelectric sensors and presenting a conceptual method of locomotion control. To do so, polyvinylidene fluoride thin sheets are used as bending sensors at the joints of a cockroach?s legs. Approaches include development of polymeric sensors; laboratory in vitro testing of sensors and cockroaches; and methodology to control them. This research successfully built an experimental foundation for sensor and roach testing and developed a methodology for roach locomotion control. This research links engineering and entomology potentially having impacts in the mentioned arenas. Testing showed that piezoelectric films, such as polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF), can serve as motion sensors for the legs, providing frequency and range of motion of each of the roach?s legs. The film is thin enough to provide as little resistance to motion to prevent altering the roach?s natural walking patterns. Testing also showed that using the insect?s instinct to physically touch an unknown object can be used as a directional control method. By using this natural response, a device can be fit on the roach capable of guiding the roach in any direction desired. This thesis is organized to present a brief introduction on the history and need for biomimetic robots. This section is followed by the research objectives and an introduction to polyvinylidene fluoride and the piezoelectric properties that allow it to become a sensor. A brief description of the roach anatomy and physiology is presented that will provide baseline of information needed to proceed with the project. We finish with an explanation of the testing of sensors on the roach and a novel method to control the roach walking orientation.