Smart materials describe a broad range of materials employing novel chemical technologies that provide unusual features or properties not normally associated with them. The “smart” features have the potential to improve part or component design and enable performance not readily available from traditional technologies. Scouting of smart material technologies is a routine part of TCI’s monitoring activities in fields such as:
- Electrorheological (ER) fluids are oil-like fluids that contain additives that make the fluids responsive to an electrical charge. Responses to a charge are rapid and cause the fluid to become more viscous, thus changing the fluid’s damping characteristics.
- Magnetorheological (MR) fluids are related to ER fluids but are rheologically responsive to a magnetic charge. Less energy is required for a magnetic response.
- Shape-memory alloys exist in metallic and plastic variations. Products employing shape-memory alloys are applicable to thermostatic devices, where they can be designed to expand or contract at specific temperatures.
- Typical plastics are insulative in nature; they do not normally conduct electricity or heat. But chemical and polymer technologies have created plastics that are:
- Inherently electroconductive (polyacetylenes, polyanilines, polypyrroles, polylthiophenes etc.) for electronics applications
- Thermally-conductive plastics are formulated with additives and are useful for removing heat from a high-temperature environment such as under-the-hood of an automobile.
- Architectural and industrial coatings are exposed to wide end-use temperature ranges and are subject to the formation of hair-line cracks. Technologies have been developed that provide self-healing features to maintain product surface protection.