Helping future development of multimodal sensors

Penn State researchers examined the ways to decouple input signals for multimodal sensors, which is important for avoiding complicated signal processing steps.

By Mary Fetzer August 7, 2022
A review article by Larry Cheng, assistant professor of engineering science and mechanics at Penn State, has been accepted for publication by Advanced Science. Credit: Kelby Hochreither/Penn State

Sensor and Vision Insights

  • Multimodal sensors are a newer technology capable of working with several applications within a single sensing unit, allowing for a more flexible future when it comes to bioelectronics, robotics, health monitoring devices, human-machine interfaces (HMI) and more.
  • Cheng and other researcher’s findings can help engineers understand certain limitations and use what they learn to develop multimodal sensors.

Highly sensitive and multimodal sensors have recently emerged for a wide range of applications, such as bioelectronics, robotics, health monitoring devices and human-machine interfaces. However, when multiple input signals — such as pressure, temperature and strain — are present, it can be difficult to isolate the target input signal that scientists are trying to measure in order to manipulate dexterous objects with robotic hands or accurately inform health/disease conditions.

multimodal sensors

A review article by Penn State researchers examines the evolution of multimodal sensors in detecting numerous input signals from discrimination and interference suppression to decoupling. Advanced Science has accepted the paper for publication. Credit: Ruoxi Yang/Penn State

“The selection of the multifunctional materials and the design of the sensor structures play a significant role in multimodal sensors with decoupled sensing mechanisms,” Cheng said.

The article covers the team’s review of early efforts that explored different output patterns to distinguish the corresponding input signals applied to the sensor in sequence. The article then discusses methods to suppress the influence of other input stimuli on the output signal. In their review, the researchers note that it is possible to integrate the sensors with different sensing principles, exhibiting minimized interference. Additionally, the researchers note in the article that novel materials and structures can provide multiple sensing mechanisms in a single sensing unit to give multiple different outputs to simultaneously detect multiple inputs. The study highlights insights into the materials’ properties, structure effects and sensing mechanisms in recognition of different input signals.

By understanding the current limitations and identifying future opportunities with the help of Cheng’s analysis, researchers can better work on the next generation of flexible, stretchable and truly multimodal sensors, according to the researchers.

– Edited by Morgan Green, associate editor, CFE Media and Technology,

Author Bio: Author, Penn State