Department of Mechanical Engineering
and Affiliate Faculty, Institute for Systems Research
In humans and animals, directional hearing relies on acoustic cues such as the interaural intensity (IID) and interaural time differences (ITD). To accurately detect these differences, the separation between the two ears needs to be greater than a critical distance. This poses a fundamental size constraint for sound-source localization, and small animals, especially insects, face formidable challenges. In nature, one striking innovation to overcoming the size constraint is found in the parasitic fly Ormia ochracea. The auditory receptors are forcibly set close to each other (500 microns apart) while exhibiting a remarkable ability to localize its host at 5kHz. In this talk, the following important questions will be addressed: i) Does the fly ear represent an optimal structure for localization at 5 kHz? ii) How are the structural parameters of the fly ear tailored to achieve its superior localization ability? iii) How can a synthetic device be developed to replicate the optimal characteristics of the fly ear? The answers to these questions can not only help further the understanding of the underlying biophysics of the fly ear, but also lead to a new sensing paradigm to overcoming a previously-insurmountable size constraint in engineered sound-localization systems, which is expected to impact many fronts including health care, safety, and defense.
Miao Yu is an Associate Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Maryland. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Maryland in 2002 and her B.S. and M.S. degrees in Engineering Mechanics from Tsinghua University, Beijing, China. Her current research area spans nanophotonics, optical sensors and actuators, micro-scale and nano-scale sensor systems, bio-inspired systems, wave-matter interactions, sensor networks, and smart materials and structures. Prof. Yu holds five US Patents and many University of Maryland invention disclosures in the area of optical sensor systems. The different awards that she has received include NSF CAREER Award (2007), AFOSR Young Investigator Award (2007), Ralph E. Powe Junior Faculty Enhancement award (2006) from Oak Ridge University Associations, and the Invention of the Year Award (2002) from the University of Maryland.