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Sense of Strain

Magnetic resonance imaging reveals unusual strain in a human body. Now a related physical effect, called nuclear quadrupole resonance, may help check for strain in the composite materials that are becoming common in everything from bridges to airplanes. The method, being developed by San Diego-based Quantum Magnetics, requires an undisclosed additive to be mixed into the composite as it is being formed. When this substance is hit by radio waves, it emits a different frequency; the magnitude of the shift indicates the strain in the material.

In one potential application, radio devices could be permanently affixed to various points on a structure to check the strain continually. Alternatively, a mobile unit could check for strain at particular points during routine maintenance. A commercial strain-monitoring system is about two years off, says researcher Stephanie Vierkotter.

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This is today’s edition of The Download, our weekday newsletter that provides a daily dose of what’s going on in the world of technology. These exclusive satellite images show Saudi Arabia’s sci-fi megacity is well underway In early 2021, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia announced The Line: a “civilizational revolution” that would house up…

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Every year, we pick the 10 technologies that matter the most right now. We look for advances that will have a big impact on our lives and break down why they matter.

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