Smart Materials

" Biological Systems: Nature's Smart Materials"
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What is a Smart Material?

Smart materials are those that receive, transmit or process a stimulus and respond by producing a “useful” reversible effect. They are often also called “responsive” or “intelligent” materials and depending on changes in some external conditions or the type of stimuli, "responsive" materials change their properties (mechanical, electrical, appearance), their structure or composition, and/or their functions.

A smart fluid developed in labs at the Michigan Institute of Technology

The last 30 years, scientist and technologist have made amazing developments on the design and integration of electronic and machinery using conventional materials. Now, new possibilities in engineering design with higher levels of functionality are being created by  (a) the development of new "responsive" materials; (b) the awareness of their capabilities and (c) the control on the miniutarization process.
An important feature of the technology of smart materials and structures is that it facilitates the integration of important core engineering concepts such as design and manufacture, materials science, sensor and actuator technology, information/signal processing, modeling, etc. The aim of these integration is to transform passive structures into active ones. It makes use of physics, mathematics, chemistry, computer science, materials science, electrical, and mechanical engineering knowledge.

The design of these structures with higher levels of functionality are changing the traditional practices in all engineering disciplines. For the design, analysis and manufacturing of these active systems is necessary to integrate basic engineering concepts and directed towards specific products (product realization) using a strong multidisciplinary approach. It necessitates of human creativity and innovative ideas to serve human society for such tasks as making cars safer, a more comfortable airplane, a self-repair water pipe, etc.
Smart structures can help us to control the environment  better and to increase the energy efficiency of devices.  It's important that we understand that in the manner that we created the structures of a Smart Material is going to be the results that we will obtain from it. The Smart Materials and Smart Structures are also very challenging, because they combine the better parts of Science and also requires a lot of knowledge to can work on it.

A space structure with impedance monitoring unit

A useful example is during an earthquake, MR fluid inside the dampers will change from solid to liquid and back as tremors activate a magnetic force inside the damper. Using these dampers in buildings and on bridges will create smart structures that automatically react to seismic activity. This will limit the amount of damage caused by earthquakes.  Wite h this example we demonstrate that with th smart Materials we are preparing for the future security. These are but a few of researches. Brought to their logical conclusions, uses for smart materials will enable engineers of the future to incorporate into their designs the features of safety, durability, and convenience that are the goals of today's researchers.

Importance of Smart Materials and Structures

The importance of smart materials and structures is best expressed by the following statement [after ref.1] :

“The key to 21st century competitive advantage will be the development of products with increasing levels of functionality. “Smart Materials” will play a critical role in this development, where we define these as materials that form part of a smart structural system that has the capability to sense its environment and the effects thereof and, if truly smart, to respond to that external stimulus via an active control mechanism"

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