Materials research specialist TWI has developed data transfer technology that can reportedly be incorporated into composite materials to create a high-capacity, resilient data transfer network.

Through a patented process, SurFlow transmits data in the form of electromagnetic waves that can travel through composite parts. The system uses no wires or fiber optics and, unlike wireless data transfer, cannot be intercepted remotely.

SurFlow works using surface waves: electromagnetic energy that travels along a material. By incorporating a substrate combining dielectric and conductive materials, these surface waves can be transmitted through composite structures. The waves are propagated and received using transducers which can be placed anywhere along the smart composite.

By turning a composite part into a ‘smart’ composite, the technology integrates a data network into a component’s physical structure. The system is capable of transmitting data at up to 6Gbps and can continue to function even if the composite part suffers damage.

Making contact

Potential applications for smart composites include the automotive sector, where use of composites such as carbon fiber is now extending beyond high-end applications, to reduce the complexity of a vehicle’s internal communications network.

In robotics, the technology could be used to enable communication throughout a robotic system without the use of wires. And in consumer electronics, the technology would allow a device to connect to a network by making contact with the composite’s surface, with no need to plug anything in or detect and connect to a wireless network.

Other uses being explored include advanced aerospace applications and real-time composite monitoring, whereby subtle changes in the waveform allow any damage to a smart composite component to be identified immediately. TWI is keen to explore the commercial potential of this invention. To find out more contact the company here.

This story is reprinted from material from TWI, with editorial changes made by Materials Today. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent those of Elsevier.