After surveying biology for natural sensing solutions six main types of extraneous sensing were identified across the biological kingdoms. Natural sensing happens at the cellular level with receptor cells that respond to photo, chemo, eletro, mechano, thermo and magnetoreceptor-type stimuli. At the highest level, all natural sensing systems have the same reaction sequence to stimuli: perception, transduction, and response. This research is exploring methods for knowledge transfer between the biological and engineering domains. With the use of the Functional Basis, a well-defined modeling language, the ingenuity of natural sensing can be captured through functional models and crossed over into the engineering domain, for design or inspiration. Furthermore, a morph-matrix that lists each component in the model can easily compare and contrast the biological and engineering design components, effectively bridging the two design domains. The six main types of receptor families were modeled for the Animalia and Plantae Kingdoms, from the highest to the 4th sub-level, with emphasis on the transduction sequence. To make the biological sensing models accessible to design engineers they were placed in the Missouri University of Science & Technology Design Repository as artifacts. The models can then be utilized for concept generation and biomimetic design through searching the design repository by functional characteristics. An example of a biomimetic navigation product based on the principle of electric fish is provided to illustrate the utilization of the natural sensing models, morph-matrices and design repository.

Meeting Name

IEEE Region 5 Conference, 2008


Electrical and Computer Engineering

Second Department

Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering


National Science Foundation (U.S.)

Keywords and Phrases

Bio-Inspired Materials; Bioelectric Phenomena; Biomimetics; Cellular Biophysics; Somatosensory Phenomena

Document Type

Article - Conference proceedings

Document Version

Final Version

File Type





© 2008 Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), All rights reserved.

Publication Date

01 Apr 2008