Unseen machines: Wang’s tiny strain sensors remotely monitor infrastructure

Monday, 04 May 2015

Micro-electromechanical systems, or MEMS, may not be on your mind, but there could be some in your pocket.

Your smartphone likely uses a dozen or so tiny — yet powerful — MEMS sensors to support its sophisticated functions. And that late-model car undoubtedly carries scores of devices based on MEMS and other sensing technologies.

Typically sized at the micron scale — millionths of a meter — MEMS devices use minuscule moving parts to perform a broad range of sensing tasks. Small as they are, they can detect sound, motion, position, force, pressure, chemicals, bacteria, and numerous other things worth knowing about.

At Georgia Tech, more than 20 research teams focus on MEMS-related research and development — including the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering’s Yang Wang. His tiny, battery-free strain sensors remotely monitor bridges and other infrastructure, searching for cracks or other signs of problems.

Read more about his work, and the others at Georgia Tech working on these tiny microsystems, in the latest issue of Research Horizons magazine.