Materials with unusual properties are a starting point for creating new sensors. A company involved in products with complex material properties and electronics possibly has an edge over its rivals when it comes to discovering or creating new sensing technologies.
For example, Continental, a tire maker and automotive electronics supplier recently used electrically conductive rubber compounds in its ContiSense technology so that a tire has the ability to sense critical parameters. In addition to tire pressure and temperature sensing in its Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS), ContiSense can monitor road temperature and tread depth and even detect if there is a puncture. When the measured values are above or below predefined limits, the system immediately alerts the driver.
Engineers at one of Continental’s customers were possibly inspired by Continental’s combined materials and sensing expertise. In “Vehicle pneumatic tire having a sealing material on the inside of the tire,” US 9469167 B2, BMW engineers propose using a sealing material to mount the tire pressure sensing unit.
Instead of the currently used tire pressure sensor units that are integrated in rigid housings or are cast into a hard casting compound, the inventors propose mounting the sensor in a quasi-floating gel-type mass similar to that used in self-sealing tires but with a much larger area. The surface area of the adhesive film is several (10 to 20) times larger than a base surface of the sensor unit or of a holding device for the sensor unit and mounted on the interior side of the tire. The material can be used for mounting other system aspects such as piezoelectric energy harvester to eliminate the use of batteries in the TPMS. In any case, the mounted sensors provide a detection of a puncture and lower cost driver warning than currently available systems based on the mounting material.