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Biomedicine

The Smell of Trouble

Industrial tools must be monitored daily for wear and tear-a labor-intensive process that sacrifices production time. A new surface coating developed at the Fraunhofer Institute for Surface Engineering and Thin Films, in Brunswick, Germany, promises a more efficient way to smell trouble.

The coating, embedded with fragrance-filled microcapsules, is applied to tools and machinery. As a protective top layer wears thin, the capsules are broken and the fragrance is released. For household tools, any concentrated fragrances, such as perfumes, can be used and detected by the human nose. For industrial machinery, other indicators, such as gases, can be encapsulated. When released, they can be detected by a sensor that triggers an alarm. The researchers aim to have the coatings commercially available in Europe within about a year.

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