Smart Materials - A Futuristic Design Philosophy to Simplifying Products by using Multifunctional Materials

In contrast to common structral materials, smart materials, or multifunctional materials, are characterized by adding to its load-bearing function extremely intense reactions to a change of physical stimuli like temperature, electric or magnetic fields, and even light. The fundamental philosophy of using smart materials for engineering artifacts is to simplify the design and build by integrating functionalities to the load-bearing function on the level of the material - a smart material. These smart functionalities comprise sensor, actuator and processing of information.


One example of a "smart structure" is an aircraft wing built of a smart material with sensor function indicating e.g., structural load or fatigue. Among many others an intensively investigated application for smart structure is a helicopter rotor blade made of fiber reinforced plastics with integrated piezo elements. These smart rotor blades allow to deform the aerodynamic shape by an electrical voltage. The advantages of a smart rotor blade are numerous: drastically simplified flight control, aerodynamic optimization during flight, suppression of noise and vibration. Piezo based rotor blades were intensively developed up to TRL6 level and demonstrated successfully in many flight tests. 


Piezo elements are ideal due to their immediate reaction for the cancellation of vibrations and noise in e.g. in aircraft fuselages or ultra-high-precision machines.


Smart Structure promise a profitable technology of the far future as breakthrough inventions are still urgently needed for product development and market sucess. 


One success-story already in operation since decades are piezoelectric stack actuator based scientific instruments. Just to mention the famous active optics in the Hubble-space telescope and many optical smart optics.