Electronic Design

Mini Sensors Help Fight Corrosion

Miniature sensors often are tucked away in hard-to-reach spaces. Now, a novel array of sensors is poised to change the costly and resource-intensive process of fighting corrosion in harsh environment applications. These sensor arrays can monitor not only the appearance and persistence of corrosion, but also its behavior under different atmospheric conditions, such as humidity, temperature, salinity, wind direction, and rainfall.

Designed by researchers at Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), the sensors indicate where, when, and why corrosion occurs. They also convert this information to a real-time management tool that can reduce the costs of maintenance and inspection and improve the safety and integrity of structures.

While some of the CSIRO sensor arrays have already been sold commercially, most of the research is still regarded as in the trial stage, with plans to test the sensors under extreme desert conditions in the Middle East and also inside aircraft fuselages. CSIRO researcher Tim Muster says the sensors have been specifically designed to withstand the conditions they need to monitor. The sensors continually monitor the environment in which they have been placed and detect the early onset of corrosion or the environmental conditions contributing to it.

Researchers are now working on automating this decision-making process to guide maintenance schedules and decrease downtime and the frequency of inspections. Also, as the sensors arm themselves with more and more data, models of atmospheric corrosion for each specific situation or environment can be developed and continuously adjusted. This should help the industry design materials that are best suited to the environments in which they will be used.

In addition to exploring new frontiers for the sensors, the researchers see opportunities to further develop the sensors themselves in terms of more advanced miniaturization and wireless operation. One long-term goal is to incorporate their sensor technology into paints and coatings, construction materials such as reinforced concrete, and other composites. Muster theorizes that someday there will be sensors that can initiate self-repair once corrosion is detected.

CSIRO Manufacturing and Infrastructure Technology
www.cmit.csiro.au/

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