How to identify water from thickener aqueous solutions by touch

Yoshimune Nonomura, Taku Miura, Takaaki Miyashita, Yuka Asao, Hirokazu Shirado, Yasutoshi Makino, Takashi Maeno

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)


Water detection is one of the most crucial psychological processes for many animals. However, nobody knows the perception mechanism of water through our tactile sense. In the present study, we found that a characteristic frictional stimulus with large acceleration is one of the cues to differentiate water from water contaminated with thickener. When subjects applied small amounts of water to a glass plate, strong stick-slip phenomena with a friction force of 0.46 ± 0.30 N and a vertical force of 0.57 ± 0.36 N were observed at the skin surface, as shown in previous studies. Surprisingly, periodic shears with acceleration seven times greater than gravitational acceleration occurred during the application process. Finite-element analyses predicted that these strong stimuli could activate tactile receptors: Meissner's corpuscle and Pacinians. When such stimuli were applied to the fingertips by an ultrasonic vibrator, a water-like tactile texture was perceived by some subjects, even though no liquid was present between the fingertip and the vibrator surface. These findings could potentially be applied in the following areas: materials science, information technology, medical treatment and entertainment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1216-1223
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of the Royal Society Interface
Issue number71
Publication statusPublished - 2012 Jun 7


  • Biotribology
  • Finite-element analyses
  • Friction
  • Human skin
  • Tactile display
  • Water

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Biophysics
  • Bioengineering
  • Biomaterials
  • Biochemistry
  • Biomedical Engineering


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