At a glance
STEC is a new action created in 2011.
The Action concerns the development of a multifunctional intermodal shipping container manufactured from hybrid composites to improve the security of the millions of containers moving in and out of Europe.
By multifunctional we mean the capacity of advanced composite materials to embrace the dual roles of structural component and housing for sensor devices.
The Action aims to design and develop sturdy and commercially viable prototypes , that will allow the relevant authorities to ascertain more easily the security status of containers and their contents (e.g., by increasing their transparency to a wide range of scanning methods).
The combination of the structural manufacturing and design flexibility of advanced composites, allied to the wide variety of miniaturized sensor technologies, opens up the possibility of manufacturing multifunctional structural components that had, hitherto, not been possible. However, designing a completely new large composite system requires the careful consideration of a number of criteria.
First, the action will examine carefully the policy, market and technological requirements and capabilities before embarking on specific technical solutions. The Action will examine how to include anti-tamper diagnostics into the structure of the container by exploiting the non-structural physical properties of composite materials. For example, carbon fibre is an excellent conductor and therefore an ideal material for an structural integrity antenna. In contrast, glass fibre is transparent to radar so that a panel made from hybrid (glass/carbon fibres) could function as a radar-transparent structural component fitted with an antenna. In addition to the material itself, the use of embedded MEMs and micro sensors fitted with energy-harvesting, or remote energizing capacity, will open up the possibility of introducing hidden sensors with extended energy-source autonomy. However, although very promising, these technological solutions will have to be analysed in terms of, structural robustness, cost, scalability to industrial production, and asset/drawback analysis to the relevant trade organizations.