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Touch-sensitive material wins a gold gong

01 July, 2004

Touch-sensitive material wins a gold gong

A British firm has won a Gold technology award for a novel sensing technology at the Sensors Expo show in Detroit, USA. Darlington-based Peratech won the award for its QTC Pills, which can change from being almost perfect insulators (with resistances above 10 Megaohms) to metal-like conductors (with resistances below 1 Ohm), when deformed by compression, twisting or stretching.

The QTC (quantum tunnelling composite) materials were discovered by one of Peratech`s co-founders who was looking for a conducting glue. Instead, he created a material that changes from an insulator to a conductor following a smooth, repeatable curve, with the resistance dropping exponentially. QTCs (shown in the Pill form above) can be tuned to respond to a feather-light touch or a heavy hammer blow.

The materials can be cast, extruded, moulded, machined, or impregnated into other materials such as plastics and textiles. Potential applications include metal-free switches with no moving parts, sensitive tips for robot arms, waterproof switches, speed controls and sparkless safety switches.

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