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Researchers at Liten, a CEA Tech institute, printed strain gauges on a flexible plastic substrate. The technique, which had previously been validated on pressure sensors, is paving the way to low-cost volume manufacturing.
In printed electronic circuits, the necessary materials are deposited in the form of specially-formulated inks onto a substrate. Researchers at Liten used screen printing to make strain gauges on flexible plastic. With a gauge factor of 10 (the gauge factor refers to the relative change in resistance to mechanical strain applied), the printed gauges achieve levels of performance comparable to gauges made using conventional technologies. Even better, the printed gauges will reduce manufacturing costs. "You can print up to 10,000 gauges per square meter for around ten euros." The systems can also be printed alongside other devices like temperature and piezoelectric sensors. Finally, printing can be used on large surface areas. "This makes it easy to personalize the design and position of the sensors on the substrate, whether it is flat or curved, such as for devices printed on piping." The researchers developed a demonstrator gauge on a pipe for the Smart Urban Water project. The gauges could be used to provide multi-parameter inspection and testing data for drinking water network.
The technology could also be used for many other applications, from controlling mechanical strain in industrial buildings and aircraft, electric batteries, hydrogen fuel cells, robotics, industrial logistics, and more.
CEA is a French government-funded technological research organisation in four main areas: low-carbon energies, defense and security, information technologies and health technologies. A prominent player in the European Research Area, it is involved in setting up collaborative projects with many partners around the world.