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These smart screws know when they’re getting loose

The hope is that these screws could save on inspections and maintenance.

Fraunhofer smart screw
Image: Fraunhofer

We use screws in tons of structures around the world and those screws could become loose over time. That’s why researchers have come up with smart screws that automatically detect when they are loose.

Researchers from the Fraunhofer Cluster of Excellence cognitive Internet Technologies CCIT have developed a smart screw that aims to cut down on potential maintenance costs.

These smart screws have a washer made of piezoresistive material that registers the pressure of a screw as it’s tightened. Over time, if the screw loosens naturally, that pressure changes, which changes the electrical resistance in the washer so the screw knows when it has become loose.

smart screw system
Image: Fraunhofer

But that’s just the first step. The smart screws also have to transmit a notice any time they become loose. For that, Fraunhofer uses the mioty low-power wide-area network protocol.

That technology uses very little power and is capable of transmitting data from more than 100,000 sensors up to a couple of kilometers away. But the screws do require some power.

And Fraunhofer accomplishes that using thermoelectricity. The screws harvest energy based on the difference in temperature between the screw itself and the environment. That’s pretty impressive.

Fraunhofer hopes that its new smart screws could cut back on future maintenance costs in a major way.

“When inspecting a bridge or wind turbine, no engineer is required to be on-site and check each screw individually, as all the data are transmitted via radio to the service station,” said Fraunhofer Project Manager Dr. Peter Spies.

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Staff writer at KnowTechie. Alex has two years of experience covering all things technology, from video games to electric cars. He's a gamer at heart, with a passion for first-person shooters and expansive RPGs. Shoot him an email at alex@knowtechie.com

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