Programmable materials with actuator and sensor functions are used in Vision Safe Soft Robotics, © Fraunhofer CPM

Programmable materials: Solutions for the future

Innovative materials, especially those that promise improved product sustainability and user handling, are playing an increasingly important role in the development of new products. A current focus of research in this area are so-called “programmable materials” which are capable of changing their properties such as their permeability, hardness, density, and thermal and electrical conductivity. Materials such as these could be used in future, for instance, to develop car seats that embrace the driver and passengers during vehicle acceleration, while allowing greater freedom of movement at lower speeds. Materials of this type could react to a wide range of conditions and demands – such as cooling and insulating battery cells – and therefore also help conserve resources. In 2018, a number of Fraunhofer Institutes established a Cluster of Excellence consisting of chemists, mathematicians, physicists, process engineers and product developers working within the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft to bring about a paradigm shift in how materials are used. An easy-to-understand introduction to the topic is provided in the article “Scharf zum Fleisch, sanft zur Butter” (“Sharp for Meat, Soft for Butter”) in issue 3.19 of the Fraunhofer magazine “weiter.vorn”.

The magazine, as well as the article on pages 38 and 39, is available free of charge in e-paper and PDF format (German language).

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