Indian researchers develop nanotech-based crash sensors for automobiles

Indian researchers develop nanotech-based crash sensors for automobilesCar crash (for representative purpose only)

N.B. Nair

Bengaluru (ISJ Exclusive) – A team of Indian researchers has developed a nanotechnology-based crash sensor that could activate airbags in automobiles, faster than conventional technology. The crash sensors developed by the team at the Indian Institute of Science, IISc, Bengaluru, based on nanomaterials has faster response time to open airbags leading to passenger safety in case of accident. It is light in weight and occupies less space.

Currently, automobile manufacturers use a variety of crash sensors such as gas dampened ball type, G-switch type or Reed switch, which are based on the relative motion of mechanical components like spring, ring-magnet and switches. These components are rigid, considerably bulky and hence, cannot react to rapid changes involved during the crash event, resulting in sluggish response time.

"The sensor is based on piezoelectric effect. A nano-structured thin film of Zinc Oxide (700 nanometer thick) is at the heart of sensing. At the time of a crash event, the car experiences a head on impact with the stationary load cell platform (hard material and soft material) resulting in the vibration of cantilever sensing element," Dr. Sudeep Joshi, who is the lead author of the study published in SMALL, told Indian Science Journal. Dr Joshi is currently pursuing his post-doctoral research at Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey, USA. "The activation of airbags with sensors based on nano-materials will effectively help in timely opening of airbags to save life in an event of crash."

Dr Joshi and colleagues at IISc developed a prototype of the sensor in laboratory and tested with a remote-controlled toy car model. He said, the results were repeatable and reproducible for many trial studies in a laboratory condition.

"We are in contact with industrial experts to integrate our nanoscale sensor with vehicles to obtain real-time crash sensor data," added Dr Joshi. "We believe the next-generation automated vehicles will employ such smart crash sensors with faster response time to quickly open airbags leading towards passenger safety in case of accident."

Though the sensor developed by Dr. Joshi activates only after the crash event, upcoming technologies encompassing artificial intelligence and machine learning could help design a system to generate a warning ahead of collision. It would involve highly interdisciplinary efforts from the fields of computer science, material science, mechanical and electrical engineering.

Vehicular accidents are life-threatening and result in fatal casualties across Indian cities. According to estimates, traffic accidents kill more people in India than diseases like Cancer and AIDS. More than 150,000 people are killed every year in traffic accidents in India, which works out to 400 fatalities a day, far higher than developed auto markets like the U.S., which had logged about 40,000 deaths in 2016. The World Health Organization estimates road accidents cost most countries about 3 percent of their gross domestic product.

India being the fastest growing economy will be the world's third-largest car market after China and the U.S. by 2020, according to automobile researchers.


Image: Archive (for representative purpose only)

Link to the original study: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/smll.201800608


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