December 20, 2007

New “smart” tire senses and warns when it is damaged

Gary Krutz, director of Purdue’s Electrohydraulic Center, and graduate research assistants Timu Gallien and Alyssa Brune conduct research on a “smart” tire designed to sense tread damage before the tire goes flat or experiences tread loss. Click image to enlarge

West Lafayette, Indiana – A professor at Purdue University in Indiana has developed a “smart” tire that is able to sense when it goes flat, sustains damage or loses tread, making it safer for road travel. The tire’s technology can also be used to detect impending defects before a tire goes into mass production.

A team led by Gary W. Krutz, director of Purdue’s Electrohydraulic Center, has developed a tire system that senses failure in real time. The entire tire acts a sensor that sends information to onboard computers. The university is offering the patented technology through its commercialization office.

“I became interested in this after I had to replace all the tires on my daughter’s and son-in-law’s car after just 10,000 miles, and suspected problems after seeing dozens of truck retreads along interstates,” Krutz said. “This motivated me to do some research and find a way to improve tire safety. Our prototypes were tested, and the results showed significant damage can be quickly detected.

“Some tire damage is not easily detected or prevented, even with proper maintenance and inspection. Occasionally failures occur because of gap damage within the tread, and this type of damage is a particular hazard on all steel-belted tires. Tire damage on the road creates situations that are inconvenient and, more importantly, hazardous for drivers.”

Krtuz’s research led to the development of a sensing system that can respond to significant changes in a rubber research tire. The technology can alert drivers to low air pressure or unbalanced air pressure between tires; it also searches for damage caused by road hazards, such as rocks or loose concrete, that does not necessarily cause the tire to go flat. Tire problems include cuts, punctures, manufacturing quality, imbalance, impact, rubber hardening or degradation, or improper mounting or repair.

The sensor technology developed by Krutz works for all rubber tires, including those on passenger cars, trucks, construction equipment, lawn equipment, mining vehicles and airplanes, and has been tested on other rubber products such as vehicle isolators, door and automotive seals and orthopedic devices. Krutz also said it can be used on most polymers, such as airplane wing composites, boat hulls and sporting goods.

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