Smart Materials, a designer's handbook

Welcome to this interactive handbook on Smart materials for designers, it should be your key to many new and exciting products that will be possible only if you use Smart materials. Using a simple table at the bottom of this page, explore the options.

However, you are probably wondering what are Smart materials, how do they work and what can I do with them?

Take a look round and let your imagination runs free over the possibilities.

What are smart materials?

This sounds a simple question but is not that easy to answer beyond the obvious, and really not too helpful statement "a material that displays smart behaviour". To define a smart material we really need to understand what is meant by smart behaviour and then, by means of some examples, to develop our definition.

Smart behaviour occurs when a material can sense a stimulus from its environment and react to it in a useful, reliable, reproducible and usually reversible manner. A really smart material will use its reaction to the external stimulus to initiate or actuate an active response, e.g. with an active control system.
 

SMART materials in Products

To further explain, an example material from familiar items would help. Thermochromic materials change their colour at a particular temperature. To date they have many uses including bath plugs that show when the water is too hot, children's spoons and beverage mugs. Gromit's nose on the PG Tips mug is a very recent example.

How to use this guide?

The matrix below charts many stimuli and responses, let us just look at one combination (temperature variation causing a colour change). Look across the thermal stimulus row to the optical response column you find the word thermochromic. By clicking on "thermochromic", or most other materials in the matrix, you will be presented with much more information about these materials. A traffic light scheme is used to undicate the maturity or availability of these materials. Hovering your mouse over the word will also give you the status of the technology based on the traffic light system shown below.

Explanation of Traffic light System

 

   
Traffic Light Red Not Commercially Available, only laboratory produced
Amber Starting to become available commercially but expensive
Green / Amber Available but may be limited supply or expensive
Green Widely available and affordable

 

The information appear in a new window each time. You will be able to print or download the documents as required. You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader to view the files.

You can help!

The current documents are a snapshot of how the technology and materials exist today but this handbook is intended to be a live document which will be updated as the technology and materials change. We would love to hear from you if you have any information with which to update the documents. Perhaps you are a technology provider or a materials supplier and you would like a link to your weblink adding to the documents for a particular material. Alternatively, if any of the links are no longer valid, please tell us.

If you have anything to add or would like to to discuss smart materials further, please contact Steve Morris.

Whilst every effort has been made to check the validity of the links, the Smart Materials Group and the Materials Community are not responsible for the accuracy or content of external websites.
 

 

Don't forget, you need to be logged in to open any links !

 

 

 

Stimulus vs Response Table
 
Response


?Stimulus

Electrical

Magnetic

Optical

Thermal

Mechanical

Chemical

Electrical

Ferroelectrics

Paramagnetic
 

Electrochromic 
 

Thermoelectric
 

Piezoelectric

 

Electrophoresis
 

  Diamagnetic Electroluminescent
 
Electrocaloric Electrostrictive
 
Micro-Encapsulated chemicals
Magneto-electric Electro-optic
 
  Electro-Active ionic polymer   
Ferroelectric  

Magnetic

Magnetoresistance

 

Paramagnetic

 

Magneto-optic

Magnetostrictive
 

MR fluids
 

 

Hall-effect Diamagnetic MagnetoCaloric Magnetostrictive
 
Magneto-electric     Magnetic SMA

Optical

Photovoltaic

Magneto-Optic

Photochromic

Phototropic

 

Photostrictive

Photo-catalytic
 

PhotoLuminescent / Fluorescent Micro-Encapsulated chemicals
PhotoRefractive  

Thermal

Thermoelectric
 

Magnetocaloric

Thermochromic 
 

 

Shape memory Alloy (SMA)

Micro-Encapsulated chemicals
 

Thermocouple
 
Thermoluminescent
Pyroelectric
 
 
Electrocaloric Shape Mem Polymer (SMP) Intumescent Materials

Mechanical

Piezoelectric

 

Magnetostrictive/
piezomagnetic

Mechanochromic.
 

 

Negative Poisson Ratio (auxetics)

Micro-Encapsulated chemicals

Electrostrictive
 
Triboluminescent
 
Thixotropic
Piezo-resistive Photo-elastic
Shear-Thickening Fluid/gel

Chemical/
Bio-chemical

Chemi-resistor
Sensor

 

Indicator ("Chemo-chromic", like Ph indicator strips)
 

 

 

Micro-Encapsulated chemicals
 

Chemoluminescent SuperHydro-Phobic
"Getters"

 
Antimicrobials