Smart paint could revolutionize structural safety

Jan 30, 2012
Dr Mohamed Saafi with a prototype of the smart paint technology. Credit: University of Strathclyde

An innovative low-cost smart paint that can detect microscopic faults in wind turbines, mines and bridges before structural damage occurs is being developed by researchers at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland.

The environmentally-friendly paint uses nanotechnology to detect movement in large structures, and could shape the future of safety monitoring.

Traditional methods of assessing large structures are complex, time consuming and use expensive instrumentation, with costs spiraling into millions of pounds each year.

However, the smart paint costs just a fraction of the cost and can be simply sprayed onto any surface, with attached to detect structural damage long before failure occurs.

Dr Mohamed Saafi, of the University's Department of Civil Engineering, said: "The development of this smart paint technology could have far-reaching implications for the way we monitor the safety of large structures all over the world.

"There are no limitations as to where it could be used and the low-cost nature gives it a significant advantage over the current options available in the industry. The process of producing and applying the paint also gives it an advantage as no expertise is required and monitoring itself is straightforward."

The paint is formed using a recycled waste product known as fly ash and highly aligned carbon nanotubes. When mixed it has a cement-like property which makes it particularly useful in .

Dr Saafi explained: "The process of monitoring involves in effect a . The paint is interfaced with nodes with power harvesting and warning capability to remotely detect any unseen damage such as micro-cracks in a wind turbine concrete foundation.

"Wind turbine foundations are currently being monitored through visual inspections. The developed paint with the wireless would significantly reduce the maintenance costs and improve the safety of these large structures.

"Current technology is restricted to looking at specific areas of a structure at any given time, however, smart paint covers the whole structure which is particularly useful to maximise the opportunity of preventing significant damage."

The research has been carried out at Strathclyde with Dr Saafi working alongside David McGahon, who initiated the work as part of his PhD project. With fly ash being the main material used to make the paint, it costs just one percent of the alternative widely used inspection methods.

A prototype has been developed and tests have shown the paint to be highly effective. It is hoped further tests will be carried out in Glasgow in the near future.

Dr Saafi added: "We are able to carry out the end-to-end process at the University and we are hoping that we can now demonstrate its effectiveness on a large structure.

"The properties of the give the paint a durability that will allow it to be used in any environment which will be a massive advantage in areas where the weather can make safety monitoring particularly difficult.

"The smart paint represents a significant development and is one that has possibly been overlooked as a viable solution because research tends to focus on high-tech options that look to eliminate human control. Our research shows that by maintaining the human element the costs can be vastly reduced without an impact on effectiveness."

Explore further: Identifying long-distance threats: New 3D technology could improve CCTV images

Provided by University of Strathclyde

4 /5 (1 vote)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Stripping away lead-based paint in a flash

Dec 11, 2006

A new paint stripper that combines the principles of a vacuum cleaner and a pulsed lamp shows promise as a much-needed new technology for removing dangerous lead-based paint from older housing, scientists in Massachusetts ...

Wireless nano sensors could save bridges, buildings

Apr 09, 2010

Could inexpensive wireless sensors based on nanotechnology be used to alert engineers to problematic cracks and damage to buildings, bridges, and other structures before they become critical? A feasibility study published ...

Sharkskin for airplanes, ships and wind energy plants

May 19, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- To lower the fuel consumption of airplanes and ships, it is necessary to reduce their flow resistance, or drag. An innovative paint system makes this possible. This not only lowers costs, ...

Silver Nanoparticles Deadly to Bacteria

Mar 10, 2008

Hygienic, antibacteria sprays can be harmful to the environment as well as germs. Toxic solvents are necessary to ensure that bacteria is destroyed but now there could be a new way to achieve this without ...

Recommended for you

3D printed nose wins design award

21 hours ago

A Victoria University of Wellington design student is the New Zealand finalist for the James Dyson Award 2014 for his Master's project—a 3D printed prosthetic nose.

Engineering the Kelpies

22 hours ago

Recently, Falkirk in Scotland saw the opening of the Kelpies, two thirty metre high horse head sculptures either side of a lock in a new canal extension.

Technology on the catwalk

22 hours ago

Summer days bring thoughts of beach picnics, outdoor barbecues and pool parties. Yet it only takes the buzz of one tiny mosquito to dampen the fun.

Dismantling ships and the trajectory of steel

23 hours ago

Tell me how you dismantle a ship, and I'll tell how a region can prosper from its steel! This could be the motto of this master's cycle at ENAC during which the projects of two civil engineering students ...

User comments : 0