In 2003, professor Chang Liu and his team of structural engineers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign unveiled a "smart brick" packed with electronic sensors to continuously monitor a building's structural integrity, both for routine maintenance purposes and during an emergency. Among the brick's sensors? A thermistor (to track temperature changes), a two-axis accelerometer, and a multiplexor (to measure vibration and movement).
Not all of Liu's professional colleagues were impressed by the invention. "Professor Liu has obviously not worked with a civil engineer on this project," University of California engineering professor Steven Glaser remarked. "For one, bricks are now used as a facade rather than a load-bearing element..."