The new dielectric elastomeric sensors can be stretched to twice their size (Image: Fraunhofer ISC)
Gauges that determine the amount of strain on an object are commonly used in mechanical engineering research and development to measure the stresses generated by machinery and to test structural elements like aircraft components. The most common type of strain gauge consists of an insulating flexible backing material that supports a metallic foil pattern whose electrical resistance changes as the foil is deformed, which allows the amount of strain to be measured. However, the relatively low elastic limits of the foil restrict the possible applications for such gauges. Now researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute of Silicate Research have developed a sensor that can be stretched to twice its size, dramatically increasing its possible applications.