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Wireless 'smart Skin' Sensors Could Provide Remote Monitoring of Infrastructure

By Georgia Tech News

April 22, 2013

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Georgia Tech researchers are developing wireless technology for closely monitoring structures for strain, stress, and early crack formation. The approach uses low-cost, low-power wireless sensors that can be implemented on flexible polymer substrates, and can identify structural problems at a very early stage. The sensors can be inkjet-printed on various substrates, using methods that optimize them for operating with radio frequencies.

"Placing a 'smart skin' of sensors on structural members, especially on certain high-stress hot spots that have been pinpointed by structural analysis, could provide early notification of potential trouble," says Georgia Tech professor Yang Wang.

The researchers are focusing on passive wireless sensor designs, which means they need no power source, responding instead to radio-frequency signals sent from a central reader or hub. The approach utilizes a small antenna mounted on a substrate and tuned to a specific radio frequency, which enables the antenna to function as a stress sensor.

"A key benefit of this technology is that it's completely wireless," Wang says. "It doesn't require a battery, and you don't have to climb around on bridges running long connecting cables."

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