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Strain Paint: an alternative to strain gauges

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Most products undergo stresses during their service conditions. As a result, strain develops and if the strain reaches a critical point, the product fails. We all are familiar with news of cracks in buildings, bridges, tunnels, aircrafts etc. Cracks are the final results of these stresses. When materials deform (strained), they do not fail immediately. Depending on the type, materials (such as metals, alloys, plastics etc.) resist deformations to different extent. Technically, one could use strain gauges to measure these deformations.

Researchers from Rice University (USA) have developed carbon nanotube (CNT) based composite paint to measure the amount of strain and termed itStrain Paint”. The idea is smart and simple. When polymer coating containing the single wall CNT is applied, strain is transmitted through the polymer to the nanotube. Spectral shifts of SWCNT at near-infra-red fluorescence can be easily studied to measure strain at any position of the targeted substrate. The advantage of this new coating optical measurement is that strain can be measured without any contact to the substrate.

Of course, the success of this work will depend on fine tuning of the optical measurements such as reproducibility, long term spectral shift stability and the interactions among the coating components.

Reference:  S. Nagarajaiah, R.B. Wiseman et al., Nanoletters; DOI: 10.1021/nl301008m