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Plastic/metal composite material is able to monitor itself

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October 19, 2010

Fraunhofer's self-monitoring polymer-metal composite

Fraunhofer's self-monitoring polymer-metal composite

When engineers want to know how much stress mechanical components such as wind turbine blades or machine parts are subjected to, they usually do so via a series of sensors. These sensors are typically either built into components, or are glued onto them. A new polymer-metal composite material developed at Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Technology and Applied Material Research (IFAM), however, may be about to change that – components made from the material are reportedly able to act as their own sensors.

The electrical resistance of the substance changes as it is subjected to tensile or pressure loads, and these changes are sent as signals through cables to a measuring instrument.

The polymer-metal composite can be made with a wide variety of plastics, and is easily processed using conventional machines such as extruders and injection molders – this means it can be custom-made for specific applications. It can also be laminated into large mats, and in the future could be sprayed onto geometrically complex surfaces.

Developers also claim that it is lightweight, and is a very good conductor of both heat and electricity. Its conductivity can be tweaked by varying the amount of metal it contains, which can be as much as 90 percent by weight.

IFAM is now looking for industry partners to try out the composite, which will be unveiled at the ELECTRONICA 2010 fair in Munich, from November 9 - 12, 2010.

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away.   All articles by Ben Coxworth
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