In nature, living things monitor their own health through biosensor feedback. As we get older, we know we’re no longer capable of the physical feats of our youth. Our bodies tell us that.
My team at the University of Alberta has analyzed nature’s biosensor feedback system and is developing nanosensors that will monitor wear and tear and aging in inanimate objects and equipment we depend on every day.
The benefits of monitoring the real time strength and performance of critical structures like oil and gas pipelines, commercial aircraft or bridges are obvious.
These sensors can be powered by the sun or by movement. Vibrations from vehicles passing over a bridge will power structural monitors. Sensors in the human body will draw power from everyday motion. All sensor technology will send out wireless data 24/7.
Oil and gas pipelines equipped with liners embedded with sensors will instantly pinpoint a leak over thousands of kilometres of terrain.
Our technology could soon be woven into synthetic muscles for use in the human body. For example, synthetic muscles with smart, strain-sensing polymers could lead to better vision by adjusting to the internal pressure of the eye.
There are countless applications for our sensor technology.
Professor of Mechanical Engineering
University of Alberta