Washington, April 12 : Scientists have made a bicycle with an sensor-based pedal crank that keeps informing the biker how he should direct his strength into the pedals to avoid getting out of breath.
Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institutes for Manufacturing Technology and Applied Materials Research (IFAM) have revealed that they have fixed two piezo-sensors in one of the pedal cranks of this bicycle.
One function of the sensors is to measure the forces that propel the rider forwards and show him how 'evenly' he is pedalling.
As of now, the registered data are transmitted wirelessly in real time to a PC.
In practical use, say the researchers, the data will be sent to devices like a PDA or a cell phone.
The integrated-function pedal crank is a result of the InGuss project, whose goal is to manufacture 'intelligent' cast parts, by directly integrating sensors, actuators and electronic components in the parts while they are being cast.
The special feature of the bicycle pedal crank is that the piezoceramic actuators, sensors and electronic components are integrated in the light metal components during casting, which is not an easy task because the high temperatures of over 700 degree Celsius that prevail during casting can destroy the sensitive electronic and electromechanical components.
"We protect the components with special insulating materials, and adapt the process accordingly to prevent them from being damaged," says Christoph Pille of the IFAM in Bremen.
Heiko Atzrodt of the LBF, a collaborator on the study, says that this pedal crank demonstrator is just one example out of many potential applications for the technology.
"Integrated sensor and adaptronic functions are likely to make their way into numerous products before long - for instance, sensors in aircraft parts could report material fatigue before it is too late. Integrated actuators make it possible to actively influence vibrations, too," Atzrodt says.