Design, Fabrication, and Validation of Membrane-Based Sensors

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Virginia Tech


Hair cell structures are one of the most common forms of sensing elements found in nature. In humans, approximately 16,000 auditory hair cells can be found in the cochlea of the ear. Each hair cell contains a stereocilia, which is the primary structure for sound transduction. This study looks to develop and characterize a bilayer lipid membrane (BLM) operated artificial hair cell sensor that resembles the stereocilia of the human ear. To develop this sensor, a flexible substrate with internal compartments for hosting the biomolecules and mating cap are constructed and experimentally characterized. The regulated attachment method (RAM) is used to form bilayers within the sealed device. Capacitance measurements of the encapsulated bilayer show that the sealing cap slightly compresses the bottom insert and reduces the size of the enclosed bilayer. Single channel measurements of alamethicin peptides further verify that the encapsulated device can be used to detect the gating activity of transmembrane proteins in the membrane.

The flexible substrate was incorporated into a low-noise, portable test fixture. The response of the sensor and tip velocity of the hair were measured with respect to an impulse input on the test fixture and several frequency response functions (FRFs) were created. The FRF between the sensor and the tip velocity was used to show that the hair vibration was transmitted to the bilayer for certain hair lengths. The transfer function between the sensor and the input was used to show the effect of membrane potential on sensor response.



membrane-based sensor, phospholipids, cell membrane, hair cell sensor, bilayer lipid membrane