New vibration monitors inspired by natural systems employed by spiders have been developed by researchers, allowing for the detection of even slight vibrations in surfaces.

The lyriform organ in legs of spiders alerts the insects to the presence of mates. Researchers from South Korea recently carried out an extensive investigation of the lyriform, investigating how the organ operates. They then used their study to help design a new mechanical device which could detect very slight vibrations.

Male wandering spiders attract mates by rubbing their bellies on leaves. These vibrations are detected through lyriform organs in the legs of females.

These natural structures consist of parallel slits that shake from the shaking, triggering nerve signals that are sent to the brain.

Researchers took an ultra-thin layer of platinum, and laid it on a soft polymer, and then created a series of parallel cracks, similar to the slits seen in lyriform organs. This allowed the platinum slats to stretch apart, and pulled back into shape. Electricity was then passed through the device, from one side to another. As vibrations took place, distances between the tiny planks changed slightly, altering the amount of electricity able to pass through the detector. By measuring the resistance of the device, it is possible to detect, and measure, even slight vibrations.

Health monitors could benefit from the new development, providing physicians a new generation of monitoring instruments for use in diagnosing and tracking the progress of patients. Using the new system, heart rate detectors too small to be noticed could be placed on wrists. Medical testing could also benefit from this new device, which is able to detect even small pressure changes in liquid samples.

Speech recognition is possible using the new invention. Subjects in the study were fitted with vibration detectors on their throats, and the mechanism was able to determine the words being spoken.

Music could be detected, and notes identified, using the new device. Although electronic tuners have been common for years, this new advance is much more sensitive.

"The device is reversible, reproducible, durable and mechanically flexible, and can thus be easily mounted on human skin as an electronic multipixel array," developers wrote in an article announcing the results of their study.

Wandering spiders, also known as banana spiders or armed spiders, still hold many mysteries for biologists, who are researching many biological characteristics of the animals. Little is known about many species of the arachnids, including details of their natural toxins. They live in the forests of Brazil, Columbia, Costa Rica, Paraguay and Peru and get their name from their nighttime searches for food. They hide in the day in dark and moist places and are considered the most poisonous spider in the world, according to the Guiness Book of World Recods.

Development of the new ultra-sensitive mechanism for detecting vibrations was detailed in the journal Nature.

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