Printed Sensors Monitor Tire Wear in Real Time

Prototype printed carbon nanotube tire tread sensor is smaller than a penny and affixed to inside tire wall.

Prototype printed carbon nanotube tire tread sensor is smaller than a penny and affixed to inside tire wall.

September 26, 2017 | Source: Duke University, pratt.duke.edu, 14 June 2017, Ken Kingery

Electrical engineers at Duke University have invented an inexpensive printed sensor that can monitor the tread of car tires in real time, warning drivers when the rubber meeting the road has grown dangerously thin.

If adopted, the device will increase safety, improve vehicle performance and reduce fuel consumption. The group hopes that the tire wear sensor will be the first of many that could disrupt the $2 billion tire and wheel control sensor market.

In collaboration with Fetch Automotive Design Group, the Duke researchers have demonstrated a design using metallic carbon nanotubes (tiny cylinders of carbon atoms just one-billionth of a meter in diameter) that can track millimeter-scale changes in tread depth with 99 percent accuracy. With two patents pending, the researchers are in the process of establishing industry collaborations to bring the technology to a tire near you.

"With all of the technology and sensors that are in today's cars, it's kind of crazy to think that there's almost no data being gathered from the only part of the vehicle that is actually touching the road," said Aaron Franklin, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at Duke. "Our tire tread sensor is the perfect marriage between high-end technology and a simple solution."