Buildings, and structures in general, need to be maintained in order to be kept in tip-top shape. There is just no way around it. Over time, due to weathering and a whole host of other reasons, buildings just break down. However, there may now be a way to keep better tabs on the overall health of buildings, bridges, and other structures nationwide. Gizmodo reported that smart screws can give contractors and other maintenance personnel real-time info on how well a certain structure is standing.
Engineers based out of the Fraunhofer Cluster of Excellence Cognitive Internet Technologies CCIT created the Smart Screw Connection. In a press release, the coalition detailed that the smart screws that they developed, once installed, can instantly relay a warning the moment they begin to come loose. The team hopes that their novel invention can be used to help mitigate the number of times large structures, like bridges and roller coasters, have to be inspected.
The smart screws were made to work by outfitting their washers with a proprietary DiaForce Thin Film. Essentially, the washers can instantly detect when a screw starts to come loose because of the sensitive thermoelectric properties that the DiaForce Thin Film possesses. What’s more, is that all the smart screws outfitted in a single structure will be connected to a radial base station. It is through that base station where any notifications of loose screws will be relayed. “When a screw comes loose, the resulting change in resistance is reported to a radio module located on the screw head. The radio module, in turn, sends the data to a base station, which collects the information from all relevant screws in the object,” explained Dr. Peter Spies in Fraunhofer’s press release. Spies works as the Project Manager and Group Manager Integrated Energy Supplies at the Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits IIS.
These smart screws, because of how they work, boast incredible usage potential. Spies went on to explain that with this technology engineers and maintenance crews can effectively monitor vital large structures without having to be on site. This means that, in the future, using smart screws in the construction process can serve to make things like crossing bridges and riding roller coasters safer than ever. Consider the peace of mind that goes with knowing that the integrity of a structure is being monitored at all times.
This smart screw technology, because of its inherent use, can also be used to gauge the structural integrity of buildings located in prime earthquake zones. Furthermore, smart screws can be used to help engineers save time and energy. Since the smart screws have such keen monitoring capabilities, engineers can dedicate their time to repairing what they know is broken instead of trying to determine where the source of the problem is or even waste time inspecting buildings that are sound.
Overall, the applicability of smart screws is exceedingly vast. Taking it a step further and really examining this invention’s innate value, smart screws have the potential to save lives. That loose screw on a roller coaster could immediately be fixed or a compromised building could be reinforced prior to an earthquake occurring. Therein lies the true marvel of this innovation. Whether or not widespread adoption of smart screws will occur, however, is still something that remains to be seen.