They propose using highly sensitive sensing technology, suitable even for extreme conditions, to paint a complete and continuous image of the train wheels every time they rotate.

In a peer-reviewed paper published in January in the scientific journal Scientia Sinica Technologica, Feng and his team created giant ring-shaped structures that are paper-thin and stick tightly to the inner or outer walls of train wheels. The company has developed a sensor for .


China opens first maritime high-speed railway near Taiwan Strait

China opens first maritime high-speed railway near Taiwan Strait

Researchers say the flexible sensor can not only measure previously overlooked wheel deformations, but also help engineers identify microscopic defects in track with unprecedented accuracy and nip risks in the bud. said.

The research team said the sensor also addresses a long-standing problem in the high-speed rail industry that single-point sensors can “twist” data as trains pass through curved tracks.

China operates the world's most complex high-speed rail network and has a safety record that outperforms the civil aviation industry, with no passenger fatalities in the past 10 years.

Next year, a new generation of high-speed trains will be introduced across the country's vast network, which is longer than the equator, increasing top speeds from the current 350 km/h (217 mph) to 400 km/h (249 mph).

“Coping with such an expansive high-speed rail network, ensuring train safety, and reducing maintenance costs are cornerstones in the field of rail transportation,” Fenn and colleagues wrote.

“Our flexible wheel-rail force sensor, combined with wireless sensing technology, can maintain real-time continuous pulses on the wheel-rail force of high-speed trains. This will be a game changer for China's next-generation high-speed railway.”

Feng is also leading a project funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China, including sensors for near-space hypersonic vehicles, which can soar through the sky at high altitudes and at more than seven times the speed of sound. doing.

The extreme temperatures and pressures during hypersonic flight can deform aircraft, but Feng's team is focused on preventing this phenomenon and preventing solid materials and structures from failing in these unconventional environments. Focuses on mechanics.

The hypersonics team's research requires some rigorous testing, and researchers need to create sensors that are flexible, scalable, and able to operate in the harshest environments.

Although China has invested significant resources in the development of hypersonic vehicles, these cutting-edge technologies are primarily limited to military applications.


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China's hypersonic weapons test 'has all of our attention', says US General Mark Milley

However, the number of scientists and engineers involved in hypersonics research in China is increasing, and they believe these advances will gradually trickle down to civilian applications, lifting China's manufacturing industry to new heights.

They also anticipate that civilian applications of this technology will in turn facilitate further weapons research and production.

The sheer scale and complexity of China's high-speed rail superinfrastructure has already turned it into a testing ground for new technologies.

For example, Chinese quantum physicists are developing highly secure quantum communication networks for networking. Artificial intelligence is also being applied to optimize operational efficiency and detect foreign objects on railway tracks.

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The latest generation of 5G technology will give high-speed rail drivers superhero-like vision, allowing them to receive real-time images beyond their line of sight.

Meanwhile, hypersonic wind tunnels are helping develop future low-vacuum tube maglev high-speed trains that can reach speeds of more than 1,000 km/h (621 mph).

When designing a large-area sensor suitable for high-speed train wheels, Feng's team faced several obstacles, particularly the need to balance low-cost, large-scale manufacturing capabilities with superior performance.

According to the paper, the researchers reused commonly available silicon wafers, the backbone of chip manufacturing, as the basis for the sensor. These were coated with a thin veneer of gold.


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China completes superconducting test run of 1000km/h ultra-high-speed linear motor car

Gold is expensive, but the research team managed costs by using standard photolithography equipment to coat each wafer with a microscopic thickness of gold, just a fraction of the width of a human hair. I made it easier.

These microstructures, known as strained lattices, are composed of multiple layers of compounds and metals that exhibit changes in electrical resistance when exposed to changes in pressure.

When an electric current passes through these layers, the response generates a signal indicating a deformation of the wheel's motion, according to the paper.

“Our vertical loading experiments revealed that the flexible ring sensor not only exhibits strong linearity, but also remarkable stability and reproducibility under cyclic loading conditions,” the researchers said. is writing.

Feng and his team said that in real-world applications, the sensor could be combined with low-noise wireless telemetry technology to send wheel rail force signals to data analysis terminals.

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