'Smart' Paper Could Be Low Cost Way To Detect Water Leaks

Nov 20, 2017

When you think of a smart gadget, you probably think of a phone or an appliance. But, how about a piece of paper? That’s what a team of scientists at the University of Washington have developed. And they say its use could range from manufacturing to medicine.

Researcher Anthony Dichiara says, unlike your average piece of notepaper, what he helped design can conduct electricity and detect water.

Why, you might wonder, would a piece of paper that did that be useful?

Diachiara says, think about a public utility with a complex network of pipes. Usually, he says, the water pressure drops and you know there’s a leak but have to spend time and money tracking it down, often taking piping apart.

With smart paper, a leak on the paper would trigger and submit a signal identifying the location of the problem.

“You would know immediately exactly where it’s coming from,” Dichiara said.

Dichiara says he’s also had interest from people in the field of medicine who could see smart paper being used to detect things like humidity in breathing machines.

He says an attractive thing about paper is that it’s a fairly low cost tool.

And, he says, the smart paper is environmentally friendly, made with wood fibers and carbon. No petroleum is used.

Dichiara says if the paper can be made to scale and demand takes off, it could even help bring back jobs in the pulp and paper industry in the Pacific Northwest.