Smart material to protect buildings and vehicles

September 11, 2012 // By Nick Flaherty
Researchers in Berlin have developed a new kind of anti-theft system based on a woven fabric that triggers an alarm when penetrated by intruders

The smart fabric developed at the Fraunhofer Institute for Reliability and Microintegration IZM in Berlin enables the exact location of the break-in to be identified, and is significantly cheaper than other burglary detection systems.
The material is also cheap enough to use as an invisible means of protecting entire buildings. Vehicles parked overnight at truck stops are particularly vulnerable to attacks by thieves who slit open the canvas tarp covering the trailer while the driver is asleep and make off with the cargo. If the tarp were made from the smart fabric, the driver in the bunk would be immediately alerted.
The fabric was developed in collaboration with the Technische Universität Berlin and ETTLIN Spinnerei und Weberei Produktions in Ettlingen, which manufactures technical textiles, among other things, and has filed a patent on the fabric.
“The fabric could be used to implement an entirely novel, invisible security system for buildings,” said IZM project manager Erik Simon. What makes this solution unique is the fact that it not only signals the presence of intruders but also indicates the precise point of forced entry. The fine lattice of conductive threads woven into the fabric enables the place where it was cut to be identified to the nearest centimeter. Other solutions currently on the market require a complex system of optical fibers
There are also other reasons why this fabric is cheap to produce. The process makes exclusive use of standard materials and components such as silver-coated conductive threads and a simple but robust signal evaluation system. The conductive thread can be incorporated in the polyester substrate using an industry-standard textile-weaving process, says Simon, so that reams of fabric that can be trimmed to any length and customized to provide the desired functionality for surfaces of any size, from one square meter upward.
The conductive lattice and the data-processing module that triggers the alarm in the monitoring center are incorporated in a low-temperature