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Op-Ed: Self-aware metamaterials major advances and cookie-cutter coverage

It’s almost impossible to quantify the sheer scope of this technology from smart stents to spacecraft, and beyond.

Photo: KKPCW via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Photo: KKPCW via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Self-aware materials contain sensors and can detect changes in their surrounds. They’re also self-powering. The University of Pittsburgh’s Intelligent Structural Monitoring and Response Testing (iSMaRT) Lab has released information about its new findings, and they’re fascinating.

It’s almost impossible to quantify the sheer scope of this technology from smart stents to spacecraft, and beyond. To put this exceptionally valuable tech into perspective:

  • These metamaterials are a vast class of new materials for an infinite number of uses from medical to large-scale engineering. Self-healing materials are already on the market. Guided self-repair, using sensors, would be a huge breakthrough in its own right.
  • One of the biggest costs to industry is maintenance. Self-repair could be a huge benefit. Self-repair could also be used for documenting materials issues and problems, invaluable for researchers.
  • “Planned obsolescence” and other money-gobbling, useless costs be damned. That long running nuisance could be finally put to rest with self-managing materials. Just retrofit the self-aware materials as required.
  • Structured inbuilt sensor capacity in any context is a vast improvement on the superimposed sensor method. This is a systemic approach, much needed in medicine, and potentially critical in many forms of construction and engineering.

Coverage… sort of… Needs market targeting

Read this article on the new tech.

The coverage of this major breakthrough is pretty much all the same. That’s a pity. This IS the very start of a tech revolution, in so many ways. It deserves proper scrutiny and desperately needs more information about basics.

It’s OK and necessary to be a bit coy about specifics and technical proprietary issues. For example, scalability to nano and macro levels is important. Why not more indicators of practical applications to introduce the technology? Adaptability and adjustability of metamaterials is a truly critical issue. Why not expand on it?

I strongly advise iSMaRT to start looking at good selective exposure for its information. This is a gigantic range of market diversity. Targeted information will do much more good than general statements. Specific information where it matters is required.

There’s plenty of good big money to be thrown at such fundamentally useful tech. There are many developers of metamaterials who could use this technology very effectively in so many environments. Space, medicine, computers, basic electronics; there’s no limit.  

So let’s go nuts on some proper peer coverage, shall we? These researchers may well have solved one of humanity’s oldest and by far most annoying problems.

Written By

Editor-at-Large based in Sydney, Australia.

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