Then we witnessed the emergence of plastics and composites with implications all around us, in the construction, automotive aeronautic, sports, the military domain….
We are now entering the advent of the 3rd generation, i.e. the multifunctional materials able to adapt to their environment. This is the field of smart materials. This is a revolution for the twenty-first century, as important as that of the communication revolution and biotechnology.
What is a smart material: A smart material is sensitive, adaptive and evolutionary. They have features that allow it to act as a sensor (detection signal), an actuator (perform an action on the environment) or sometimes as a processor (process, compare, store information). This material is capable of spontaneously change its physical properties, such as color, in response to natural stimuli or induced from outside or within the material.
The smart material will therefore adapt its response, notify a modification appeared in the environment, and in some cases cause corrective action. This makes it possible, as a color indicator to detect structural weaknesses in the skin of an aircraft, to visualize the risks of ice on a road and / or rupture of the cold chain. It is also developing smart textiles, particularly in connection with the defense industry where the color change increases the effects of camouflage.
We can consider that the houses of the future and the offices will be populated with smart materials. The house was originally a passive shelter against the cold or inclement weather. It became active with the arrival of fluids, energy, water and gas. It is endowed with “muscles” with household robots. It actually becomes interactive with telephone, television and the Internet. But the walls themselves and partitions made of smart materials will be able to functions and properties that will revolutionize the building in the coming years. Connected to sensors (especially involving pigments thermo-, photo-, and / or piezo-sensitive), these materials will revolutionize the way we live in the homes of tomorrow. Unlike passive materials capable of fighting against noise and against the loss of heat (such as cork or glass wool), smart materials can adapt to their environment as a “skin” sensitive. For example, darken a window when the light is too strong.