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Smart composites report defects on their own

Fiber composites could be used even more efficiently if quality assurance were simpler and if fatigue symptoms were easier to detect. This is where integrated sensors in the material will assist.

15 Aug. 2018
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Smart composites report defects on their own (Photo: Fraunhofer IFAM)

“Currently, components made of fiber composite materials have to be designed with large safety cushions or subjected to strict maintenance intervals during use,” notes the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Technology and Advanced Materials IFAM. The institute has been working on finding solutions for how tiny printed sensors can be integrated directly into the composite materials . The Institute of Plastics and Composites at the Technical University of Hamburg (TUHH) is thinking along the same lines and has now launched the EXIST research transfer project “Sensors for fiber composites” .

BMWi and the European Social Fund are providing €802,000 in grants to the spin-off, which has already patented its sensor technology with support from Startup Dock . The integration of the sensors into the composites is very simple: “It is somewhat similar to the application of a smart, double-sided adhesive tape. The sensors combine chemically with the component surfaces,” according to Dipl.-Ing.me. Danny Hinz, research associate at the TUHH and project manager for development and application. According to the four young founders, these sensors last “reliably for decades” even under harsh conditions, opening up new application fields for fiber composite materials, such as sewers, pipelines or large pressure tanks.