Lateral-Line Inspired MEMS-Array Pressure Sensing for Passive Underwater Navigation
Author(s)Fernandez, Vicente Ignacio; Hou, Stephen M.; Hover, Franz S.; Lang, Jeffrey H.; Triantafyllou, Michael S.
This paper presents work toward the development of a novel MEMS sensing technology for AUVs. The proposed lateral line-inspired sensor system is a high-density array of pressure sensors for measuring hydrodynamic disturbances. By measuring pressure variations on a vehicle surface, a dense pressure sensor array will allow the AUV to detect, classify, and locate nearby obstacles and optimize its motion in unsteady environments. This approach is very similar to the canal lateral line system found in all fish, which allow them to function in dark or clouded environments. In order to lay the groundwork for developing the MEMS sensor and interpreting the pressure distributions, the paper also presents experiments demonstrating the discrimination between cylindrical obstacles of round and square cross sections with an array of off-the-shelf pressure sensors. Test objects with 5.1 cm and 7.6 cm diameters passed stationary sensors at 0.5 m/s and 0.75 m/s and with 1.3 and 5.1 mm separation. Hand chosen features and features chosen through a Principal Component Analysis are used to discriminate between object shapes under a variety of conditions. A classification error rate of under 2% is achieved across all velocities, sizes, and separations. These results lead to requirements for the density, sensitivity, and frequency response of the MEMS sensors, which fall well in the MEMS domain. The pressure sensor array proposed here consists of hundreds of MEMS pressure sensors with diameters near 1 mm spaced a few millimeters apart fabricated on etched silicon and Pyrex wafers; a fabrication process for producing the array is described. A strain-gauge pressure sensor is analyzed and shown to satisfy specifications as required by the results from the afore-mentioned experiments. The sensing element is a strain gauge mounted on a flexible diaphragm, which is a thin (20 µm) layer of silicon attached at the edges to a square silicon cavity 2000 µm wide on a side. A source voltage of 10 V produces a sensor with a sensitivity on the order of 1µV/Pa. Since the thermal noise voltage is near 0.7 µV, the pressure resolution of the sensors is on the order of 1 Pa.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Sea Grant College Program
MIT Sea Grant Technical Reports;MITSG 07-16