R12 Integration of smart and modern materials

Posted: October 10, 2010 in Resistant Materials

Initial knowledge 1

Current working knowledge 2

I find smart and modern materials a really fascinating subject.  I wasn’t really aware of many of the new developments before undertaking the course and was first really introduced to them at the Design and Technology fare at the NEC (apart from a decidedly dodgy global hypercolour t-shirt in the mid 80’s).  The amazing thing is that the field is so broad and diverse and could be seen to include anything from nanotechnology to artificial intelligence.  We have been given the chance to interact with them now on a couple of occasions and to me although I do find them fascinating it sometimes begs the question ‘what could we do with them?’  In ten years time the materials that are being developed now could be common place in society and as teachers we could be using them as everyday media in design and technology and so to me this indicates the importance of keeping up to date with new developments but also keeping an open mind as to how one day we might employ them within lessons.  Its certainly an area that I know I would have been really interested in in school and with samples available could well be an interesting focus point for lessons in the future.  Children nowadays are always interested in the newest technologies and it would be interesting to see what ideas their young enthusiastic minds could come up with to apply the new technologies and see if they could find a way to integrate them into their future.  So what sort of things are being produced?

Electrol-rheological fluids – fluids that undergo instantaneous yet a reversible change in structure when subject to electrical stimulus.

Shape memory materials- Metals which when plastically deformed at one temperature will completely recover their original undeformed state upon raising the temperature.

Piezoelectric materials- Solid materials which generate a charge in response to a mechanical deformation or develop mechanical deformation when subjected to an external magnetic field.

Electrostrictive materials- Materials that develop mechanical deformations when they are subject to an external electric field.

Thermal materials- Materials that change in response to an alteration in temperature

Sensing technologies- a device, which responds to an input quantity by generating a functionally related output usually in the form of an electrical or optical signal.

Having looked at many of these materials in different forms it is easy to think that they are a clever invention but view them as just a bit of fun but on the contrary many modern and smart materials perform essential roles in a wide range of different products.  Motion control gels or smart grease regulate the movement of components in contact to provide the right ‘ feel’ or desirable characteristics.  Sliding microscope barrels, variable resistors and even slow spring CD drawers all incorporate motion control gels and it is perhaps the more readily available smart materials that are already in practical use that we could see being available to classrooms in the very near future.  Modern and smart materials are already increasingly available in generic forms for design and technology students and I feel sure that things like SMA’s (smart wire and smart springs), liquid crystal technology (thermochromic film) and things like the control gel will be readily available and cheaper to purchase for schools in the not to distant future so I wil continue to investigate and keep up to date with new developments hopefully consider some applications so that I can make my millions in the future.

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