It is sort of an electronics rule 34 that if something occurs, someone needs to sense it. [Bblorgggg], for reasons that aren’t immediately obvious, needs to sense ants moving over trees. No kidding. How are you going to do that? His answer was to use graphene.
Actually, his super sensitive sensors mix graphene in Silly Putty, an unlikely combination that he tried after reading (on Hackaday, no less) about similar experiments at Trinity College resulting in Gputty. The Gputty was highly sensitive to pressure, and so it appears is his DIY version called Goophene. At Trinity they claimed to be able to record the footsteps of a spider, so detecting ant stomping didn’t seem too far-fetched. You can see a video of the result, below.
Silly Putty, which is just silicone putty, gives the graphene an unusually large dynamic range. That is, it can detect large pressures (say, a finger pressing) and still detect a very faint pressure (like your heart beating through the finger). Apparently, the graphene lines up to become pretty conductive in the putty and then any deformation causes the resistance to go up. However, when the pressure subsides, the graphene lines back up.
This isn’t just for ants, of course. Some of the items that Goophene has detected successfully include:
- Light touches with a napkin
- Typing on a table nearby
- Finger Movements
As sensitive as it, though Goophene has only successfully detected angry ants. Apparently, ants are light steppers unless they are stomping mad.
The Gputty used some harsh chemicals and lab procedures. Goophene is a lot easier to make and looks like you are mixing epoxy to the untrained eye. You don’t have to do it, but you can get a better blend using an electric massager that he apparently uses on his back.
In addition to just making a pliable sensor, you can also embed monofilament line into the putty and make super sensitive artificial cilia. Just the thing for your next artificial alien project.
There are quite a few videos in the post you can check out. The second video below, though, shows the device sensing a captive ant’s footsteps. We presume it is the captivity that’s making him angry enough to show up.
[Bblorgggg] must really want to sense the little critters because he bought graphene which is quite expensive. However, we’ve covered a lot of ways to make it if you want to try your hand at making Goophene. Depending on how much you need and what you can start with, there are several methods to choose from.