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Project Type
UTRC Faculty Development Mini-grants
Project Dates
01/01/2009 - 12/31/2009
Principal Investigators
Project Status
Project Description

Through support of a University Transportation Research Center Faculty Development Minigrant I propose to investigate the viability and use of RFID based sensing technologies for sustainable transportation purposes. These applications would potentially include the wireless detection of overweight trucks, remote and automated emissions monitoring of vehicles, corrosion of infrastructure and transportation security applications. Sustainable transportation would be improved through savings realized by a reduction in the cost of sensor technologies as well as the significant cost savings and environmental impacts realized by reducing the damage to roads and bridges by the efficient detection of overweight trucks, a reduction in the number of vehicles with emissions violations, in-situ detection of infrastructure corrosion to enable just in time maintenance and improved safety of mass transit. Commercially available RFID tags cost ~$0.1 and are being used in a wide range of applications including, shipping, warehouse management among others. Recently Wake Inc. has developed methods for incorporation of RFID tags into concrete structures for in-situ measurement of the curing process. While these tags cost more that $0.1, due to the enhanced packaging, they are able to measure the temperature of concrete structures to determine when the structure has cured. Typical protocols require that concrete “cure” for a mandatory 28 days so that its maximum strength is achieved. However depending on the local temperatures, humidity, concrete volume etc., concrete may achieve this maximum strength in just several days. Thus, through the use of the RFID sensors, construction of transportation related infrastructure can proceed at a much faster pace and realize significant savings by reopening major routes, bridges or runways at earlier dates. While Wake Inc. has demonstrated this in several instances, including the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, there are further improvements to be made to this technology by incorporating new sensing capabilities into RFID tags. Recent work by Potyrailo et al. has shown that through the use of chip-less RFID technology, i.e. measurement of the analog based impedance spectrum of the RF signal from industrially available RFID tags, one is able to detect with a high degree of sensitivity and selectivity a range of chemicals. This has been demonstrated for a variety of solvents, such as ethanol, methanol, and water as well as the degree of milk spoilage within a milk carton.

Through the minigrant program I intend to research and further develop the use of chip-less based RFID sensing technologies for sustainable transportation applications. My research group has extensive expertise in developing tailored nanomaterials for optical based chemical sensing technologies. For much of this work the application relies on changes in the dielectric function of the material to induce a correlated optical response indicative of a chemical event. This same dielectric response change will induce a change in the impedance spectrum measured by the RFID tag reader. However for the stress sensors (overweight trucks), vehicular emissions monitoring, infrastructure corrosion and security applications new harsh environment compatible coatings will need to be investigated. Therefore, through the minigrant program we will determine the types of coatings required for these transportation related applications, the magnitude of dielectric function changes occurring will be predicted as well as the predicted sensitivity and selectivity of detection. Furthermore, RFID equipment cost, range of detection and overall viability of this technology for improving the sustainable characteristics of a variety of transportation related applications will be outlined. By investigating and gaining experience with RFID technologies my group will further expand the applications of chip-less based RFID sensing techniques leading to state of the art harsh environment compatible RFID sensing technologies. These efforts will lead to a manuscript to be published in the literature which will highlight capabilities and limitations of chip-less based RFID sensing technologies for transportation related applications. It is clear from the literature that while RFID techniques are currently being used in a range of industries, the transportation applications highlighted above present unique challenges and opportunities that are not currently being explored and through this minigrant program my group will not only expand the state of the art but will clearly determine the benefits realized for the transportation industry through adoption of these types of novel sensing technologies.