Smart skis: A close look at driving and material behavior

PyzoFlex® technology developed at the MATERIALS Institute provides data-based feedback and detects temperature and pressure changes as well as vibrations.

Skier on the slope
Smart skis can use sensors to record data and send it wirelessly and in real time. Foto: Atomic

As part of the H2020 project Smart-2Go a team from MATERIALS, the Institute for Sensors, Photonics and Manufacturing Technologies, modified the already patented PyzoFlex® technology for use on alpine skis. These skis were developed and tested in cooperation with national and international partners, including ATOMIC, Varta Microinnovation or VTT. The tests took place directly on slopes in Austria in cooperation with Salzburg Research. "The goal of the project was to generate data about the rider's performance as well as about the material," reports Andreas Tschepp, project manager at JOANNEUM RESEARCH. "In the test runs, we achieved this goal and obtained high-quality data." The smart ski is equipped with an energy-autonomous sensor system that records vibrations while skiing and transmits this data wirelessly. This provides excellent feedback on the skis behavior.

PyzoFlex® is based on sensors made of special polymers, the geometry and size of which are adapted to the specific application and which are applied using a cost-effective screen printing method. The name PyzoFlex® is derived from the characteristics of this innovative sensor technology, which detects dynamic temperature (pyroelectric) and pressure (piezoelectric) changes as well as vibrations efficiently, simply and with high precision. Thanks to foils as the carrier material, the sensors also have a high degree of flexibility and can thus be applied to a wide variety of surfaces, including curved surfaces. "In addition, the polymers used make it possible to create a highly energy-efficient system that can even be used for energy generation, i.e. energy harvesting," explains Gregor Scheipl, product manager for PyzoFlex®.

How does it work?

The printed piezoelectric sensors measure flexibility and vibration such as the swing line, the swing change points (TSP) or the smoothness of the ski on the slope. The sensor system, which is applied directly to the ski, records, processes and stores the data or sends a wireless livestream. Even the power supply comes directly from the ski: using a micro battery (50mAh, Varta) and printed organic solar cells (OPV, Armor) to harvest solar energy. The built-in energy management chip enables the system to use additional energy harvesting sources, such as thermal, magnetic or vibration. "The project partners and we expect to gain new insights into the driving and material behavior of skis. This should bring more safety and less wear," explains Tschepp.


More information: Other applications of  PyzoFlex®-Technology