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Flexible Sensor Network and Its Embedded Integrated Circuits for Structural Health Monitoring


TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Materials/Processes

OBJECTIVE: To endow large composite structures of air vehicles with multifunctional capabilities to sense, diagnose and determine their state of health at any time on-demand by developing flexible sensor network and its embedded integrated circuits.

DESCRIPTION: Recent advancements in sensor technology have led to a vision to embed sensor arrays inside airframes to achieve multifunctional capabilities to sense, diagnose, and determine their state of health at any time on-demand. In particular, the use of a network of piezoelectric sensors and actuators to interrogate and monitor the health of structures has become a promising technology for such applications. However, massively distributed array of multiple types of sensors will require a carrier layer made of flexible polymer allowing large deformation and the resistance to harsh environment. Resulting flexible sensor network should span very large areas and easily be integrated into the composites with negligible impact on the mechanical performance of airframe. In order to make the networks functional, the sensors need to be connected to sensor interface circuits, which are high-voltage analog/mixed-signal circuits. Due to the high voltage requirement (30-50 volts inputs), current PCB implementation of the interface circuits are bulky and heavy and cannot be embedded into composite materials. While research activities have been reported on miniaturizing such interfaces into an integrated circuit (IC) and building a system around it, more technology development efforts are needed to tailor and enhance the design for actual deployment. The goal of this solicitation is to develop a highly expandable, lightweight and flexible sensor network and its embeddable interface application specific IC. Proposer teams shall demonstrate capabilities to design, fabricate and test the systems.

PHASE I: Perform proof-of-concept analysis and experiments that demonstrate the feasibility of a highly expandable, lightweight and flexible sensor network and its embeddable interface application-specific IC (ASIC). Develop the methodologies and processes for their implementation and usage on large composite structures.

PHASE II: Design, fabricate and test a prototype of flexible sensor network and its embeddable interface ASIC and deliver the required hardware and software. Demonstrate the feasibility of autonomous health monitoring in a simulated operational environment and validate system performance. Develop the baseline methodologies for their integration into actual aircraft.

PHASE III DUAL USE APPLICATIONS: Assess the integration of newly developed autonomous health monitoring system into actual aircraft to ensure their successful operations. Begin the transition process for commercialization of technology into high-volume applications in civil infrastructure (oil/gas pipelines, bridges, buildings).


    • G. Lanzara, J. Feng and F.-K. Chang, "Design of Micro-Scaled Highly Expandable Networks of Polymer Based Substrates for Macro-Scale Applications," Smart Materials and Structures, vol. 19, No. 4, 2010.


    • G. Lanzara, N. Salowitz, Z. Guo and F.-K. Chang, "A Spider-Web-Like Highly Expandable Sensor Network for Multifunctional Materials," Advanced Materials, vol. 22, No. 41, 2010.


    • N. Salowitz, Z. Guo, Y. Li, K. Kim, G. Lanzara, F.-K. Chang, “Bio-Inspired Stretchable Network Based Intelligent Composites,” Journal of Composite Materials, Vol. 47, No. 1, 2013.


  • Y. Guo, C. Aquino, D. Zhang and B. Murmann. “A Four-Channel, ±36 V Piezo Driver Chip for a Densely Integrated Structural Health Monitoring System,” 9th International Workshop on Structural Health Monitoring, 2013.

KEYWORDS: flexible sensor network, embedded integrated circuits, structural health monitoring

  • TPOC-1: Byung-Lip Lee
  • Phone: 703-696-8483
  • Email:
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