Smart Tire Developed to Sense Damage

A new type of "smart" tire developed by a Purdue University professor is able to sense damage when a tire goes flat or loses treads. The tire's technology also can be used to detect impending defects before a tire is mass produced.

A team led by Gary W. Krutz, director of Purdue's Electrohydraulic Center and a professor of agricultural and biological engineering, has developed a tire system that senses failures in real time. The concept behind the technology is that the entire tire acts as a sensor that sends information to onboard computers.

The patented technology is available through the Purdue Research Foundation's Office of Technology Commercialization.

"I became interested in this after I had to replace all the tires on my daughter's and son-in-law's car after just 10,000 miles and suspected problems after seeing dozens of truck retreads along interstates," said Krutz. "This motivated me to do some research and find a way to improve tire safety. Our prototypes were tested, and the results showed significant damage can be quickly detected."

Tires are consistently subjected to harsh and unpredictable conditions. Because of this, they become particularly susceptible to external damage. "Some tire damage is not easily detected or prevented, even with proper maintenance and inspection," Krutz said. "Occasionally failures occur because of gap damage within the tread, and this type of damage is a particular hazard on all steel-belted tires."

Krutz's research led to the development of a sensing system that can respond to significant changes in a rubber research tire. The prototype system was designed by determining critical aspects of tire design and performance. Sensors that can alert operators when a tire condition has degraded can save time and effort in repairing or changing the tire. The sensors also can notify drivers of low air pressure or unbalanced air pressure between tires, which can prolong the operable life of a tire.

Measurements on the tread, which includes the outermost layer of the tire and the layers beneath it, can be used to determine greater susceptibility to tire degradation. Examples of tire problems include cuts, punctures, manufacturing quality, imbalance, impact, rubber hardening or degradation, or improper mounting or repair.

The sensor technology developed by Krutz works for all rubber tires, such as those on passenger cars, trucks, construction equipment, lawn and garden equipment, mining vehicles, and airplanes. The technology has been tested on other components and can be used in rubber products such as vehicle isolators, door and automotive seals, and orthopedic devices.

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