Volume 6, #9The Scientist April 27, 1992

`Smart' Materials Research Expands Beyond Defense Arena

Date: April 27, 1992

Excited by a new group of substances known as "smart" materials, a growing group of polymer chemists, solid state physicists, materials engineers, and other scientists are dreaming up such futuristic projects as bridges that heal themselves when cracks develop, submarines whose surfaces soak up obtrusive sonar waves, and airplane wings that stiffen to adapt to flight stresses.

"Smart materials are the next big area within materials technology," says Richard O. Claus, a fiber optics researcher at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech). Dozens of companies now include smart materials in their research portfolios. Centers to explore applications of the new materials have been launched at academic institutions in the United States, Canada, Japan, and Europe in the past few years.

For the uninitiated, the phrase "smart...

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