Smart Materials

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  • Smart Materials
    • What are they?
      • Respond to differences in temp or light and change in some way
        • They sense the conditions in their environment and respond
      • Appear to 'think' and have 'memory' as they revert back to their original state
    • Shape memory alloys
      • SMA remembers its original shape when deformed + returns to it when heated
      • E.g. Glasses frames which return to original shape after being bent
      • E.g. simple and effective way to move parts in machines, like cooling vents
      • Polymers can also be 'programmed' to return to original shape when heated
    • Thermochromic sheet
      • Printed with liquid crystal 'ink' that changes colour above 27 C
      • Used in toys, jewelry and temp indicators
    • Thermochromic pigments
      • Often used on novelty mugs that reveal design as hot water is poured in
      • Can be added to polymers to create plastics which react to heat
        • E.g. baby feeding spoons which warn you if food / drink is too hot
    • Photochromic materials
      • React to light
      • E.g. glasses that darken in bright light use photochromic lenses
    • Self healing materials
      • Have ability to detect and repair damage done to them
      • Can use embedded capsules that release an adhesive when the materials cracks
        • E.g. polymers with internal adhesive - used on products such as cutting mats
      • E.g. Bioconcrete heals itself using bacteria that react with any water that gets into it and produce limestone to fill any micro cracks that appear
    • Quantum Tunnelling Composite (QTC)
      • Insulating rubber containing tiny particles of metal
        • When squashed, metal particles meet + allow flow of electrical current
      • Insulator when resting / conductor when pressure is applied
      • Often used in outdoor applications where water could damage tiny microswitches
      • Has been used in clothing to control smart phones + in power tools to give variable speed controls


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