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Mumbai University researchers ‘develop DNA’ for air planes, cars

The Mumbai University researchers said that the It can help in settling insurance claims in case of the airplane and car accidents, identify defects in the material as well as to identify counterfeit materials

cities Updated: Aug 26, 2018 10:22 IST
In the technique, nanoparticles of gold are implanted in the material in the shape of the code. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Researchers at the University of Mumbai (MU) have developed a new technique to insert unique codes into composite materials used for manufacturing airplanes and high-end motorcars.

These barcodes can help track these composite materials the same way deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) molecules present in a body part are used to track the person it belongs to.

As part of the technique developed at MU’s department of chemistry, nanoparticles of gold are implanted in the material in the shape of the code. This code isn’t visible with naked eyes but can be viewed in ultraviolet (UV) light.

A research paper on this technique has been published in Advanced Material, an international science journal, while a patent has been filed in the United States.

Embedding composite materials with identifiers, or ‘barcoding’ them, has emerged as an important area of research in the recent years. Currently, manufacturing companies are using coloured dyes, radio-frequency identification (RFID) chips, such as the ones in metro train tokens and magnetic ink, which is used to print codes on bank cheques, for barcoding materials.

The MU researchers said that the It can help in settling insurance claims in case of the airplane and car accidents, identify defects in the material as well as to identify counterfeit materials. “In some accidents, only a part of the vehicle is found. Using barcodes embedded in the material, one can trace it back to the vehicle,” said Amol Pansare, the lead researcher, who is now a post-doctorate fellow at Indian Institute of Technology Bombay (IIT-B).

“The ease of fabrication of fiber-reinforced composite parts renders it vulnerable to unscrupulous players and usage of substandard materials and practices to reduce costs. Hence, it is absolutely vital to track a composite part throughout its lifecycle – from production to usage and to disposal,’ reads the research paper.

According to the researchers, the existing techniques can’t withstand very hot or cold conditions among other issues. “The RFID chips get damaged when exposed to water. They also stop functioning when the temperature exceeds 100 degree celsius. Besides, the material can get disturbed when the chips are embedded during the manufacturing process,” said Pansare.

The MU technique involves injecting a small solution of chloroauric acid, whose chemical composition includes gold, in the shape of the codes on the sheets of epoxy resins, a type of composite materials. Following a chemical reaction with the material, nanoparticles of gold take the shape of the code inside the material. “This method is much cheaper than the current ones,” said Pansare.

Vishwanath Patil, a professor at the department, who guided the researchers said that as soon as the technique is patented, they plan to introduce it to various companies. “This is the first time an MU research has been published by a such a reputed journal. We hope that it boosts the MU’s ranking and draws researchers to the university,” he added.

First Published: Aug 26, 2018 10:20 IST