This grant provides partial funding for a joint US-Japan Workshop on Bioinspired Sensing and Bioinspired Actuation (BSBA) Technologies, to be held in Japan on March 18 and 19, 2011. Society is reliant on the use of sensors and actuators to monitor and control its engineering systems, and new paradigms to their design are urgently needed to ensure sensors and actuators continue to improve in functionality, reduce in cost and shrink in size. An entirely new approach to design next-generation sensors and actuators is through the mimicking of the highly efficient sensing and actuation mechanisms found throughout nature. Toward this end, a joint US-Japan Workshop is organized to identify a research and education roadmap for bio-inspired engineering of sensors and actuators. The objectives of the US-Japan Workshop on Bio-inspired Sensing and Bio-inspired Actuation (BSBA) are to: (a) evaluate the current status of research and education in the topic area in the United States and Japan, (b) identify critical and strategic research and educational issues of mutual interest, (c) identify joint research projects and potential research teams for collaborative research activities, and (d) formulate a strategy for securing funding for them in both the US and Japan. The workshop will be jointly supported by NSF and Japan Technological Agency (JST).

The research of BSBA is newly emerging and multi-disciplinary, and vigorous research efforts are beginning to be undertaken in various disciplines including aerospace/civil/electrical/mechanical engineering, bioengineering, biology and chemistry. It is expected to bring transformative changes to the design of many engineering systems. As USA and Japan are two technological giants in the world, joint BSBA research can be expected to create breakthroughs that will lead to novel bio-inspired technologies that could impact every facets of our living society. The workshop will invite and include the participation of students, post doctoral researchers and other junior researchers as well as underrepresented groups of researchers to enhance diversity and broad contribution. The workshop will also promote the international collaboration to leverage resources, and share technical data and research ideas for the mutual benefit of the two countries. The outcomes of the workshop will point to and guide the major collaborative directions of future sensor technology research between US and Japan.

Project Report

The fields of civil and mechanical engineering rely upon extensive use of sensors and actuators to monitor and control many of the complex engineered systems that are of critical importance to the economic prosperity of society. While the recent emergence of new sensing and actuation technologies have yielded many new and powerful monitoring and control platforms, technological growth has slowed in recent years due to bottlenecks associated with the current design and development paradigm. In contrast, biological systems offer a watershed of exciting examples of how living beings sense and actuate. Based on the principles of sensing and actuation observed in nature, there are opportunities for the engineering community to study these principle to yield new approaches to the design and fabrication of engineered sensors and actuators. The result may be more functional, yet lower cost sensors and actuators for civil and mechanical engineering systems. This new field of bio-inspired sensing and bio-inspired actuation (BSBA) has the potential to offer transformative advances in sensing and actuation not previously witnessed. However, for the engineering community to truly be successful in harnessing the potential of BSBA technology, a lively and devoted community of researchers from differing disciplinary backgrounds (including engineering, biology, computing, material science, etc.) and cultural perspective is absolutely necessary. Towards this end, this NSF-sponsored project provided support to hold a U.S.-Japan Workshop on Bio-inspired Engineering of Next-Generation Sensors and Actuators in which U.S. and Japanese participants from various disciplinary backgrounds could meet to plan for the growth of a trans-Pacific BSBA research community. This workshop was held on November 12 and 13, 2011 on the campus of the University of California, Berkeley. The workshop objective was to understand the current state of BSBA research and education in the U.S. and Japan with the aim of identifying strategic BSBA research topics ideally suited for U.S.-Japan teaming. Intellectual Merit: The project yielded many intellectual contributions to the engineering and biological disciplines. First, the workshop has created a young but vibrant US-Japan research community committed to BSBA research. Five major grand challenge problems were formulated for this community as it moves forward in collaboration: Design of Multi-Level and Multi-Length Hierarchical Systems Inspired by Biology Teaching Bio-inspired Engineering to Undergraduate and Graduate Students in Engineering Biochemical Engineering of Bio-Inspired Systems for Energy, Water, Food, and Medicine Biologically-inspired Robustness: Self-sustaining Sensors and Actuators Biologically Inspired Control, Enhancement and Data Processing Broader Impacts: The workshop will result in a number of broader impacts that project well beyond the US-Japan research community formulated as part of the workshop. Fundamentally, new sensing and actuation technologies designed through bio-inspiration will impact all of the aerospace, civil and mechanical systems that define the quality of life of society. The workshop also invited a number of bright, young students who acquired new perspectives for their own research pursuits. Furthermore, efforts were made to include researchers and students from underrepresented groups with the aim of enhancing the diversity of the BSBA research community. A dedicated website ( was created to report the workshop outcomes to the general public.

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University of California Berkeley
United States
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