Polymer-metal composite can monitor itself

Researchers at the Fraunfhofer Institute for Manufacturing Technology and Applied Material Research (IFAM) have developed a polymer-metal composite material which, they say, can be used to create plastic components that can monitor themselves.

Because there is a wide range of plastics suitable for use as a matrix material, the composite can be tailormade for a series of applications. Due to its synthetic character, the composite can be easily processed and the high proportion of metal - up to 90% by weight - means it has good thermal and electrical conductivity. The composite is also compatible with conventional plastics manufacturing machinery, including extruders and injection moulding. Arne Haberkorn, project manager for composite developments at Fraunhofer IFAM, said: "We can combine our polymer-metal composite material with various synthetics and process them into a range of component parts. That includes not only solid and heat resistant, but also soft flexible workpieces." The researchers have created a number of prototypes to demonstrate that the approach works and are now searching for potential industrial users.