SPIE Smart Structures/NDE Researchers Look to Nature for Inspiration

A fruitful 20-year collaboration among scientists and engineers in the complementary fields of smart structures and materials and nondestructive evaluation and health monitoring continues to produce new technology for commercial and research applications: among them, refreshable Braille displays for smart tablets, new materials for artificial muscles to solutions, insect decoys to save tree species from extinction. SPIE Smart Structures/NDE brought the community together in March for their annual forum including popular sessions on topics such as bioinspiration, electro-active polymers (EAPs), and energy harvesting.

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A popular demonstration session at SPIE Smart Structures/NDE highlights the latest capabilities and applications of electroactive-polymer (EAP) materials.

A popular demonstration session at SPIE Smart Structures/NDE highlights the latest capabilities and applications of electroactive-polymer (EAP) materials.

Smart structures and nondestructive assessment technologies continue to provide new solutions to a broad variety of challenges.

Bellingham, Washington, and San Diego, California (PRWEB) April 25, 2013

From monitoring bridge corrosion using ultrasonic waves to sensing temperature based on the functioning of a snake’s nervous system, smart structures and nondestructive assessment technologies continue to provide new solutions to a broad variety of challenges. SPIE Smart Structures/NDE ― a 20-year-old event pairing the engineering fields of smart structures and materials with those of nondestructive evaluation and health monitoring ― again this year provided a forum for reports on new research. Dates were 10-14 March.

Held in San Diego, the annual event also provides a valuable opportunity for animal residents of the San Diego Zoo to help demonstrate how principles of biomimicry and bioinspiration are applied in developing engineering solutions.

This year’s “animal ambassador,” a 35-year-old python named Monty, helped staff from the Zoo’s Centre for Bioinspiration demonstrate a source of inspiration for thermal sensors and mechanical propulsion systems.

Larry Stambaugh, director of the Centre for Bioinspiration, gave one of five plenary talks. Others included:

  •      Dimitris Lagoudas (Texas A&M University), on “Characterization and modeling of shape memory alloys for smart structures applications”
  •     Karlheinz Bock (Fraunhofer Research Institution for Modular Solid State Technologies, EMFT), on “Heterointegration of smart systems by co-integration of materials and processes”
  •     Tribikram Kundu (University of Arizona), on “Ultrasonic and electromagnetic waves for NDE and SHM”
  •     Norman Wereley (University of Maryland, College Park) on “Bioinspired pneumatic artificial muscle actuator system design for aerospace and robotics applications.”

Applications including carbon nanotubes in artificial muscles, refreshable Braille displays for cellphones and tablets, and multi-degree-of-freedom sensors for robots highlighted this year’s popular annual EAP (electro-active-polymers)-in-Action demonstration session.

Among awards presented, EAP Chair Yoseph Bar-Cohen (Jet Propulsion Lab) recognized three new SPIE Fellows:

  •     Sridhar Krishnaswamy, Northwestern University
  •     Raúl Martín-Palma, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid
  •     Qibing Pei, University of California, Los Angeles.

Roger Ohayan (Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers) and Norman Wereley (University of Maryland, College Park) were dual recipients of the Smart Structures and Materials Lifetime Achievement Award.

Wereley also accepted the Smart Structures Product Implementation Award on behalf of a collaboration between Techno-Sciences, Inc., and the University of Maryland.

SPIE/ASME Best Student Paper awards were presented to:

  •     Haixiong Tang, University of Florida (first place)
  •     Christopher Nonis, University of Massachusetts, Lowell (second place)
  •     Sri Vikram Palagummi, North Carolina State University (third place).

The symposium included 10 parallel conferences on emerging technologies and advanced research with commercial, medical, aerospace, military, healthcare, and other applications. Technical sessions were complemented by a two-day exhibition featuring vendors of sensor systems, testing and monitoring equipment, and components.

Among research presentation highlights:

  • A team from Pennsylvania State University is developing decoys to blunt the spread of tree-killing emerald ash borer beetles. Their larvae feed on the sap of ash trees, killing by depriving trees of nourishment. Entomology professor Thomas Baker teamed up with the research group of engineering science and mechanics professor Akhlesh Lakhtakia, who replicate biological structures such as fly eyes and butterfly wings. The groups developed a decoy that visually replicates the female borer, enabling researchers to trap the males to decrease breeding and thereby larvae.
  • Virginia Tech College of Engineering researchers have built a man-size, autonomous robotic jellyfish, a larger model of a previous robotic jellyfish built by the same team headed by Shashank Priya, professor of mechanical engineering. Jellyfish are attractive candidates to mimic because of their ability to consume little energy owing to a lower metabolic rate than other marine species, the researchers said. With no central nervous system, jellyfish instead use a diffused nerve net to control movement and can complete complex functions. “A larger vehicle will allow for more payload, longer duration, and longer range of operation,” said Alex Villanueva, a doctoral student in mechanical engineering working under Priya.

Both papers are accessible via open access in the SPIE Digital Library through 31 July; see: "Fabrication and testing of artificial emerald ash borer visual decoys" (PDF 92.5 kB) or "Modeling and control of a jellyfish-inspired AUV" (PDF 912 kB)

Wereley and Norbert Meyendorf (Fraunhofer Institute for Nondestructive Testing IZFP and University of Dayton) were Symposium Chairs. The event is cosponsored by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME).

Accepted papers are being published in the SPIE Digital Library as soon as approved and in print volumes and digital collections. Multimedia from four of the plenary talks is viewable from the SPIE Newsroom.

The call for papers for SPIE Smart Structures/NDE 2014 will open in May.

About SPIE

SPIE is the international society for optics and photonics, a not-for-profit organization founded in 1955 to advance light-based technologies. The Society serves nearly 225,000 constituents from approximately 150 countries, offering conferences, continuing education, books, journals, and a digital library in support of interdisciplinary information exchange, professional networking, and patent precedent. SPIE provided over $3.2 million in support of education and outreach programs in 2012.


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