Smart and Modern Materials. How can you tell which material is what?


All Smart and Modern materials are amazing, but it’s important you learn the difference between the two. Learning these two phrases will guarantee you some marks should it come up in the exam (and it often does).

Smart Materials change when an outside force is added:

  • Thermochromic ink changes colour with heat.

  • Electroluminescent materials glow when electricity is passed through them.

Modern Materials have specific properties at all times:

  • Fluorescent materials are bright enough to show up in the dark.

  • Reflective material reflect light.

  • Phosphorescent materials glow in the dark.

Smart and Modern materials are being developed all the time and your exam could ask you for a specific example of both.

Modern Materials

Graphene: Developed from the same lead that is in your pencils Graphene is a super thin layer of graphite which provides a light weight, super strong, flexible material which is also a great conductor of heat and electricity. It is a fairly new material which is being developed into a wide variety of products such as vehicles, aeroplanes and sports racquets.

Nano materials: Tiny particles (nano) are woven into fibres to solve a whole range of problems. Deodorant in sports socks, antibacterials into wound dressings and Teflon onto things like school uniforms to help keep them clean are just a few examples.

Technical textiles are functional modern materials being developed all the time to help make fabrics

Kevlar: A synthetic fibre which can be woven to create a super strength, lightweight fabric which has uses such as motorcycle protective clothing and bullet proof vests.

Nomex: This is a fire resistant fabric with the resistance built into the fibres before it’s woven so it can’t be washed out. Used by firefighters and racing drivers.

LCD: Liquid Crystal Display are flat screen displays which use liquid crystals to modify to create the shape formed by an image on a screen. They have been developed to be more flexible and high-definition as well as being energy efficient.

Composite materials are a mixture of materials to solve a particular need

Glass Reinforced Plastic (GRP): A combination of glass fibre and thermosetting plastic which together makes a tough mouldable materials for use in car bodies, boast and kayaks.

Smart and Modern Materials. How can you tell which material is what?, figure 1

Carbon Fibre reinforced plastic (CRP): A mixture of carbon fibres and thermosetting plastic, lighter, stronger and more expensive than GRP it is used in helmets, laptops and sports equipment.

Smart Materials

Thermochromic pigments: colours changing additivies that change with heat. These can be used in baby spoons, mugs and clothing to indicate temperature.

Shape Memory alloy: These have the ability to remember an original shape when heated. Used in glasses if you accidently bend them - they can pop back into shape when you dip them in hot water. Or switches which can turn on when a specific heat is reached.

Photochromic pigment: These pigments change colour in response to light. A great example of this is glasses which become tinted and turn into sunglasses when you go out into the sun.