This screw from the future should be able to alert when it’s loose

This screw from the future should be able to alert when it’s loose

Researchers have just developed the screw of the future, capable of identifying by itself if it is unscrewed or not.

Every day men and women work on large structures such as bridges, buildings and other buildings to do inspections on them. The idea here is to check that everything works well and that the risk of an accident is minimal. But in order to make this work easier and safer, researchers from the Fraunhofer Cluster of Excellence Cognitive Internet Technologies (CCIT) have developed a completely new generation screw.

This little screw is indeed smart. It leverages the Internet of Things to automatically send alerts when it detects that it is no longer securely attached. If the part becomes a little looser than when it was installed, she senses it and gives the alert. An idea that does not necessarily seem useful, but which could take on its full meaning in bridges, wind turbines, cranes, and other roller coasters, installations that are subject to the effects of time and weather.

Clearly insufficient human controls

With the months or even years passing by on these pieces of iron, the screws can loosen on their own, without the whole installation showing any wear, or the screw itself showing any signs of fatigue. To avoid a tragedy, inspections are therefore regularly carried out on these structures, but these are expensive and their reliability is increasingly called into question.

In the example of amusement parks, specialized teams work every day to monitor and inspect these large iron structures, to check that everything is in place. But other works are much less supervised, this is particularly the case of bridges, which are the subject of great passionate debate, both in France and in the United States (especially since the tragedy in Genoa).

One screw, one listening station and you’re done

In order to avoid new tragedies, the CCIT teams have developed an intelligent aim, delivered with a washer which acts as resistance. If a change is felt by the screw, then it gives a warning signal for the building to be inspected with precision. The screw head also contains a very small radio module, capable of sending its signal to a base station.

The researchers explain that a single station would thus be able to monitor and pick up the signal from 100,000 vis. The latter would also have the advantage of being able to be placed kilometers away, the radio waves used here having no problem traveling great distances.

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