A Princeton University professor of electrical engineering Sigurd Wagner working with a research student Patrick Goerrn has built a laser sensor that is stretchable. It is made from an organic laser that is placed on a rubber sheet.
When the sheet of rubber is stretched, it develops cracks. The light that reflects from these cracks changes color, forming a sensor. This sensing device in turn enables engineers to immediately assess the status and condition of bridges and buildings.
The engineers will stand far from the bridge or building, and while shining an ultraviolet light beam on to the rubber sheet that has the sensing device. The changes in the colors of the lights will help the engineers to determine the amount of stress, strain and wear and tear on the bridge or building. This is a better option for engineers to use because until now, sensors were able to detect damages or stress only along a straight line, but not within the cracks that developed on the constructed surface, or on the stretch of surface between two sensors.
The results of the research conducted at the university have been published in the January issue of Advanced Materials.