News and Reviews (October 2017)

Replicated Moth Antennae

Bioinspired Antennas for Chemical Sensing

Male moths use their antennae to rapidly detect food and female pheromones over large distances from up to four kilometers away, better than artificial sensors of similar size. Moths use chemical communication for sensing pheromones in less than a second and this can reduce significantly the time that typical sensors take for detecting gases in minutes. Moth antennae thus inspire a new approach to detect chemical leaks, drugs and explosives. The olfactory ability of the moths is based on the antenna hairy design that allows an increased contact to a large volume of air containing pheromones particles in low concentrations.



left: Moth antenna in close-up. (Credit: Alexander Sviridov/
right: SEM of synthetic printed antennae. Courtesy of Thomas L. Spencer (Georgia Institute of Technology)

Researchers at the Oak Ridge National Lab and the Georgia Institute of Technology have recently published their studies on the natural olfaction structure of male moth antennae that could serve to improve performance of preconcentrators for chemical sensing. They analyzed the natural dimensions and the hierarchical structure of the antenna design and fabricated a 1:1 scale replica of the moth antenna using Nanoscribe’s two-photon polymerization based 3D printer. The antenna structure consists of suspending features with a three level hierarchy of branches at the micro scale. In this study, researchers have developed novel preconcentrators for sensing substances faster than typical gas sensors. The 3D printed antenna could be used for odor collection analysis and in future applications for sensing dangerous substances.

Read more in the publication: Synthetic moth antennae fabricated as preconcentrator for odor collection