MEMS-Augmented Structural Sensor (MASSpatch) for wireless health monitoring

Period of Performance: 09/20/2003 - 09/20/2004


Phase 1 STTR

Recipient Firm

Extreme Diagnostics, Inc.
6960 Firerock Court
Boulder , CO 80301
Firm POC
Principal Investigator

Research Institution

Virginia Polytechnic Institute
Sponsored Programs 0170
Blacksburg, VA 24061
Institution POC


This STTR project develops self-powered PZT sensor/actuators, MEMS temperature sensors and data transmitters, chip-sized mechanical impedance analyzers, and data processing procedures and integrates them into a self-contained structural health-monitoring package for wireless inspection of aerospace-weapons systems. The opportunity: Legacy system maintenance, the development of relatively disposable aircraft, and other pre- and post-9/11 factors are accelerating demands for structural health monitoring (SHM) to improve the reliability of aerospace-weapons systems. Improved diagnostics are needed for new construction, smart materials, aging infrastructures, and catastrophes. Current SHM sensors require power and data wiring; they do not interface readily with existing systems. Objectives: The objective is to develop, demonstrate and validate self-contained "slap-on" MASSpatch sensors that support and improve structural reliability for a wide range of existing aerospace-weapon systems. Research description and tasks: 1) develop adaptable, reliable and robust sensors; 2) develop an inexpensive chip-sized impedance analyzer; 3) develop data integration procedures that fuse information from hundreds of sensors into a few key parameters; 4) incorporate piezoelectric-based power harvesting; and 5) wirelessly integrate these hardware and software elements into a complete, self-contained SHM system. Impedance-based SHM correlates reliably with damage; demonstrating these elements on a representative Air Force structural system illustrates MASSpatch effectiveness and shows feasibility. Anticipated Air Force benefits The future of the Air Force focuses along two lines: o Maintaining legacy (aging) systems longer; and o Developing new, relatively disposable systems (unmanned air vehicles, single use systems). In both cases, the keys to successful operation are knowledge of overall current system health and the ability to predict future system health under projected operational conditions. MASSpatch provides the SHM data needed to extract and develop knowledge of both current and future system health. Potential commercial applications Commercial applications are starkly clear. Structural health monitoring is an emerging industry driven by an aging infrastructure, malicious humans, and the introduction of advanced materials. Applications include smart structures and SHM of aircraft, dams, bridges, and oil and gas facilities. Early commercialization focuses on state and Federal agencies that include the Department of Transportation, the Department of Energy, and the Department of Defense. Non-government customers include oil and gas companies, owner/operators of fire-fighting slurry bombers, dam and bridge owners, and other crucial-structure custodians.