Waterloo University scientists have developed a new cost-effective, battery-free sensor to detect water leaks in buildings.
Water leaks are the leading cause of property damage in apartments, offices and other buildings. They often result in expensive repairs and higher insurance premiums.
Waterloo’s new device – which is smaller than a nickel at five millimeters in diameter – makes use of nanotechnology to power itself and can send an alert to smartphones when exposed to moisture.
The scientists estimate that their battery-free sensor could be commercially produced for $1 each – about a tenth of the cost of current leak detection devices on the market.
“One of the big issues related to water damage in buildings is that owners don’t install enough sensors because they are too expensive,” says Waterloo professor George Shaker.
“The much lower cost of our sensor enables the deployment of many, many more to greatly improve protection.”
Once wet, the new sensor creates a chemical reaction that produces enough electricity to power a wireless radio and additional sensors that record environmental conditions such as temperature.
The wireless radio and other sensors are on a circuit board packaged with the leak sensor in a box just three centimeters square.
In addition to being cheaper, the new sensors are environmentally friendly, reset after use, can be installed in hard-to-reach places and require much less maintenance.
The scientists are also pursuing additional applications for the new technology, including in diapers for the elderly and in bandages to detect wound leakage after surgery.
Image and content: University of Waterloo