An end to wiring? The future of automation, electronics, and data transfer
TWI has developed SurFlow
TM - a new system for transferring data that could see an end to the use of wiring in everything from aircraft to robotics and consumer electronics to automobiles. Rather than using wiring to send signals, this technology uses composites in the structure of the item itself, directly transferring information capable of moving servos, turning lights on and off, and even relaying audio or televisual data.
This video helps explain what the technology can do:
Described as the future of composite data highways, this novel data transfer technology removes the need for wires or fibre optics, while also eliminating the remote interception risks associated with wireless data transfer. The patented SurFlow™ technology (patent GB 2522344A) uses electromagnetic surface waves to transmit data directly through composite structures.
SurFlow™ allows data to be transmitted at speeds up to 3Gbps – which is three times faster than using internet cables. These smart composites can continue to function even when damaged.
SurFlow™ has opened up a slew of potential applications in a variety of industries. For example, in the automotive sector, SurFlow™ could reduce the complexity of a vehicle’s internal communications network while maintaining weight reductions by removing the need to add wires and sensors. There are also potential applications for industries including aerospace, robotics, consumer electronics and power, among others. See our videos for more examples of Suflow™ in action – with a
model aircraft and a robotic hand.
The technology works by passing electromagnetic energy through composite structures using a combined substrate of dielectric and conductive materials. These waves are transmitted and received by transducers which can be placed anywhere along the smart composite.
TWI is creating a Joint Industry Project to further investigate and test the potential of this innovative new technique. The project aims to advance the Technology Readiness Level (TRL) of SurFlow™ technology and provide technical solutions suitable for specific products and applications as selected by Sponsors.
The first phase of the project will characterise the frequency range and data transfer rates of typically used materials in different engineering sectors and applications. Phase two will develop SurFlow™ technology solutions for specific geometries and products relevant to the project Sponsors.
The primary objective of the project is to create a design tool that Sponsors can utilise to design new products or add value to existing ones. The project will also offer tailored solutions for specific applications of interest to the Sponsors.
A successful launch meeting for the Joint Industry Project was held on 24 January, but it is still open for potential Sponsors to join.
If you are interested in becoming a Sponsor for the Joint Industry Project, you can find out more
SurFlow™ will also be part of the TWI composite technologies and processes on display on stand U69 at the
JEC World trade show in Paris. Held between 6-8 March 2018 in Paris Nord Villepinte, France, the show will offer a full spectrum of processes, new materials and composite solutions, and TWI will be on hand to demonstrate a variety of composite-related activities.
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