Silicone is so soft and flexible that it is easily deformed by the pressure of a finger. Researchers at Fraunhofer have recently created sensors made from this flexible material, making it easier to steplessly control devices. At the Hannover Messe, they are presenting a glove that can measure pressure and a steering wheel that lets the driver control music, light and ventilation at the touch of a finger
Multifunction steering wheels are standard in most automobiles today, and these days drivers can easily manipulate the cruise control and stereo without taking their hands of the wheel. However, the buttons are rather inflexible and the driver can often only switch something “on” and “off” or can only choose the “next” or “previous” song. “That is because they are made of rigid materials like hard plastic, metal or ceramics,” explains Dr. Holger Böse, technical and scientific manager of the Center Smart Materials (CeSMa) at the Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research ISC in Würzburg, Germany. In his work, Böse focuses on smart materials with mechanical features that can be controlled either electrically or magnetically.