smart sensor
Sea lamprey attached to the sensing panel
Credit: Hongyang Shi

Xiaobo Tan and Nelson Sepulveda, professors in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, are developing “smart” sensing panels that take advantage of a sea lamprey’s instinct to suck in order to record the mechanics of the attachment.  

To properly design the smart panels, Hongyang Shi, a doctoral student, built a prototype containing sensing apparatuses to understand the sea lamprey’s suction pressure dynamics. The researchers wanted to find out if the sea lamprey’s suction was in a uniform pattern all over the suction disk or if it was concentrated in the middle or the outside ring. Measuring the strength of a sea lamprey’s suction was also important.  

“We were surprised to learn that the sea lamprey only sucks as hard as it has to,” Tan said. “Which makes sense, it doesn’t want to use up its energy that is otherwise needed for finding a mate and spawning.”

The research has been published recently in PLOS ONE and there is a YouTube video demonstration here.

Full story at MSU Today: https://msutoday.msu.edu/news/2021/using-sea-lampreys-natural-instincts