Smart Materials refer to materials that are designed to respond in a way that can be controllable and reversible. This is achieved by modifying their properties through external stimuli such as certain temperatures or mechanical stress. Due to the responsiveness of the materials, they are also popular as responsive materials. Smart materials are essentially a new generation of materials that are quickly surpassing conventional and functional materials. The materials contain various adaptive capabilities to external stimuli, such as inherent intelligence.
In a recent development within the smart materials sector, researchers have created a material inspired by chain mail that has the ability to convert from a foldable, fluid-like state towards specific solid shapes once researchers put pressure. The material is a huge advancement for Smart Materials Market as it would have several potential applications such as an adaptive cast that can adjust itself as the injury heals, exoskeletons, or even as a deployable bridge that can be easily unrolled and stiffened.
The aim of the team was to build such materials that can stiffen on command. Their goal is to have a fabric that can easily go from soft and foldable to rigid with the ability to bear load in a controlled manner. In order to achieve this, researchers designed many several configurations of linked particles, starting from linking rings to cubes to octahedrons. Thereafter, the materials were printed out through 3-D printing technology from polymers and even metals.
The team stated that a beautiful example of a complex system could be Granular material wherein simple interactions on a grain scale can have complex behavior structurally. In the present chain mail application, the capability of carrying tensile loads at grain scale is a complete game-changer. It is akin to having a string with the ability to carry comprehensive loads. Achieving stimulation in such complex behavior would open widows towards extraordinary structural design and performance.
To create the new smart materials, engineers applied external stress, thereby compressing the fabrics with the help of a vacuum chamber or by dropping weight to put the jamming in order. During experiments, the team demonstrated that a vacuum-locked chain mail fabric could support a 1.5-kilogram load which is more than 50 times the fabrics’ own weight. The fabric that displayed the largest variations in mechanical properties were the ones that have the larger average number of contacts with particles, for instance, linked rings and squares, similar to medieval chain mail.
The fabrics would have great benefit for the market as they could greatly impact smart wearable equipment. Their best characteristics are that lightweight, comfortable to wear, and compliant. They could become a supportive and protective layer in the near future.
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