Dr Peter Harrop, Chairman, IDTechEx
Aircraft, and later cars, will have a nervous system like a human being, instantly alerting to touch and damage. Aircraft will have no passenger windows, instead displaying a moving color picture of what you would see from a window in the position where the window used to be, thanks to a smart inside to the fuselage - an imaginary window. Bridges immediately warn of decay, load or earthquakes thanks to self-powered sensors sealed within them. Dance floors, stairs and the walkways in subways sometimes generate enough electricity to power signage and lighting because electronics sealed in the floor creates electricity from movement.
All this is structural electronics, a large new market assessed in the new IDTechEx report, "Structural Electronics 2015-2025: Applications, Technologies, Forecasts". This report, with many extensive, original tables and diagrams, gives ten year forecasts for structural electronics and for its key enabling technologies employed or envisaged such as printed electronics. Electric vehicles particularly need structural electronics so their numbers are forecasted for the next ten years, in 37 categories, something no other analyst has attempted.
The technologies used now and in the future are assessed, from in-mold electronics to electronic 3D printing of load-bearing structures, structural metamaterials and energy harvesting such as structural photovoltaics. They are related to each other in the report with indication of maturity and potential.
A spectacular future awaits, with even the body of a washing machine acting as the controls, there being no separate components and connections. Aircraft are being developed that stay aloft on nothing more than sunshine thanks to structural solar cells in the whole wing and elsewhere. Large boats circumnavigate the world on sunshine thanks to solar decks, solar roads are being developed and car bodies that store electricity thanks to structural supercapacitors are being trialled. Smart skin on vehicles, buildings and other structures is assessed in this comprehensive report. Smart skin can increasingly perform many functions, including ubiquitous sensing, electricity generation, electricity storage and diversion of lightning strikes around aircraft made of insulating fiber composites. It will be possible to make the whole of a road vehicle glow in the dark, reducing accidents.
On a smaller scale, it has been shown that the protective insulation on cabling can be replaced with structural electronics and dumb printed circuit boards are being made load-bearing and smart. A common factor is saving space, weight and cost while increasing reliability.
"Structural Electronics 2015-2025: Applications, Technologies, Forecasts" appraises which electronic and electrical functions are most suitable for becoming structural and which are not and the options for different types such as the many forms of energy harvesting.
Which universities and research centers are preparing for the future? Where in the world are the most impressive developments occurring? Which companies and developers are most involved? What military work is under way? It is all here.