“Smart Screws” Could Save Collapsing Bridges, Wind Turbines Using a Warning Signal

Over the last few decades, we’ve seen multiple catastrophic events — including a collapsed traffic tunnel, an airplane crash, and a ship fire — all blamed on nuts and bolts. Though it seems hard to believe that something so small could be at the root of such colossal tragedies, failed fasteners often bear responsibility for outsized events like these; though the fastener itself is many times less to blame than screw connections that fall victim to human errors like under- or over-torquing, or environmental ones such as corrosion or vibration. To date, the best anyone could do to protect the assemblies on critical equipment was to buy from credible suppliers, train installation and maintenance professionals well, and be diligent about routine inspections. But a group of researchers want to add another tool to the kit they feel will help stave off breakdown events and ensure connections on vital equipment. In a press release previewing its announcement at the Hannover Messe global technology trade fair, Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits details a solution they’re calling the “Smart Screw Connection.” 

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