According to the researchers of Queensland University of Technology, a small piece of the polymer nanocomposite with carbon nanotube fillers could be placed on various surfaces to assist as an early warning system.
"It looks like a piece of thin black sheeting but it can act as a sensor to monitor the strength of infrastructure such as bridges, aircraft, and ships.
"Large infrastructure like these must be monitored constantly for cracks, metal fatigue and warping over time so that repairs can be carried out before the damage becomes critical," lead researcher Dr Cheng Yan said.
According to them, the new nanocomposite sensor was light, strong, easy and cheap to install and more adoptable than many current systems.
Dr Yan said: "This new material works by monitoring small changes in strain when it is applied to crucial points on a structure such as a bridge or aircraft.
"Maintenance officers can monitor changes in conductivity and can work out the strain applied to the sensor and by catching any deterioration early, save money on maintenance costs.
"It can be also fabricated as a large sensor network attached to the surface of a structure, similar to the neural system in the human body, applying to detection of car crash and structural health monitoring for various structures."