TechBeat: Sensing Skin For Aircraft

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Researchers at Stanford have created a fine mesh of sensors they say could wrap around an aircraft to provide nerve-like sensory information about the aircraft's structural integrity, skin temperature and even map air pressure. The material can expand up to 265 times its original size while still remaining strong and durable, according to scientists. That means one square foot of the material could stretch to cover an average car, without breaking. Scientists believe the material could provide real-time information on a variety of parameters defined by the sensors fitted to the material. Aside from skin strain and temperature, sensors are currently in development that would scan the aircraft internally. Of course, weight matters, but scientists believe they've addressed that.

Scientists say they've reduced the material that makes up the sensors by 99.7 percent, vastly reducing the weight of adding sensors across the entire surface of an aircraft. Ultrasonic wave-inducing piezoelectric devices, according to scientists, could scan the aircraft's internal structure for microscopic cracks. Scientist Fu-Kuo Chang told Discovery News, "we want to make airplanes that fly like birds" ... "sensing information about what is happening around them, just like birds do."