A team of researchers from Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) has developed sensors which can be sprayed directly onto flat or curved surfaces. The sensors, made from a hybrid of carbon black (CB), graphene, other conductive nano-scale particles, and polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF), can be networked to extract rich real-time information on the health status of the structure being monitored.
The technology includes a sensor network with a number of the sprayed nanocomposite sensors and an ultrasound actuator to actively detect the health condition of the structure to which they are fixed. When the ultrasound actuator emits guided ultrasonic waves (GUWs), the sensors will receive and measure the waves. If damage is detected, such as a crack in the structure, propagation of GUWs will be interfered by the damage, leading to the wave scattering phenomena to be captured by the sensor network. The damage can then be characterised quantitatively and accurately.
The sensor can measure an ultrasound signal from static to up to 900kHz with ultralow magnitude. The acquisition of wave scattering in an ultrasonic scheme allows detection of cracks as small as 1 to 2mm. This response frequency is claimed to be over 400 times more than the highest frequency achievable by current nanocomposite sensors.
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