smart materials (rus. "умные" материалы otherwise интеллектуальные материалы) — class of materials varying in chemical composition and physical state that have one or more physical (optical, magnetic, electrical, mechanical) or physicochemical (rheological, etc.) properties that can be significantly changed by external stimuli, such as pressure, temperature, humidity, pH, electric or magnetic field, etc.


The various materials of this group are "smart" because of their properties that are interdependent yet different in nature (mechanical, electrical, magnetic, etc.) and that allow using such materials as sensors of some external stimuli or as actuators performing some specific action when operated by a control signal. As a general rule, the function of response to external stimuli is nonlinear in both cases. Some smart materials can independently respond to external stimuli , e.g. bi-metal plates in simple temperature controllers. 

Piezoelectric materials (alpha-quartz, lead zirconate titanate) acting as sensors or actuators are most often referred to as "smart" materials. Lately thermoelectrics, multiferroics, magnetocaloric materials, giant magnetoresistance materials, magnetorheological, electrorheological fluids, shape memory materials (Nitinol, etc. .), thermo- and photosensitive polymers have been added to this class. Polymer gels that can change their volume (collapse of polymer gels) by more than a hundred of times with a small change in external conditions (temperature, solvent composition, pH) are also considered smart materials. Various polymer coatings that considerably change their conductive, optical and other properties when sorbing certain substances are used in sensor devices for environmental monitoring, in particular, to determine concentrations of toxic substances.

Not all smart materials are nanomaterials , but they are often used in nanotechnological applications. Thus, ferroelectric (piezoelectric) materials are used to build precise positioning devices (in particular, for scanning probe microscopy), and magnetorheological fluids use highly dispersed magnetic particles (nanoparticles). A number of nano-devices are based on piezoelectric materials (nanobalance, one-dimensional nanostructures of barium titanate or zinc oxide are used for power generation, etc.).


Fig. 1. Examples of
Fig. 1. Examples of "smart" materials. Quotes from lectures on nanotechnologies. Lomonosov Moscow State University, Department of Materials Science, 2009.
Fig. 2.

Fig. 2. "Smart" high-frequency power to heat converters stop heating at a certain level without any outside control while they remain inside a high-frequency magnetic field. Generally, this occurs when a converter material transitions, at a certain temperature level (the Curie point), from a ferromagnetic into a paramagnetic state, in which it is no longer subject to heating in a magnetic field. The figure shows the change in temperature of dispersions containing particles of different magnetic materials converts depending on duration of their residence in the magnetic field. The straight line represents the temperature of dispersions containing a "conventional" converter [5].


  • Goodilin Evgeny A.
  • Shlyakhtin Oleg A.


  1. Multiferroic CoFe2O4–Pb(Zr0.52Ti0.48)O3 nanofibers by electrospinning// AIP, 2008 URL: (reference date 12.12.2011).
  2. Microfibre–nanowire hybrid structure for energy scavenging // Nature, 2008 URL: (reference date 12.12.2011).
  3. Nanoazbuka: atomno-silovaja mikroskopija // Nanometr, 2007 URL: (reference date 12.12.2012).
  4. "Smart Materials and Structures " official web-page URL:
  5. Kuznetsov A.A., Shlyakhtin O.A., Brusentsov N.A., Kuznetsov O.A.“Smart” Mediators For Self-Controlled Inductive Heating // European Cells and Materials - № 3. Suppl. 2, 2002 - pp. 75-77.

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