Smart materials

smart materials hero

Materials that actively interact with the external environment to provide multifunctionality can be the basis for developing superior products.

Traditional materials are typically employed in products based on a compromise between getting the best strength and some other property, such as weight, corrosion resistance or hardness.

Products built using traditional materials are at their best at the start of their life, but degrade over time. Products utilising smart materials are more dynamic. They change their properties, and therefore performance, in response to the environment.

Whether this is a change in shape, colour, thermal properties, stiffness, transparency, or in response to temperature, light intensity, fire, impact, electrical stimulation, smart materials (either reversibly or irreversibly) alter their performance in response to external stimuli.

As a result, smart materials offer multifunctionality, extended lifetimes and a myriad of sensing opportunities, as outlined in the following case studies.

Case studies

Solar powered windows and facades

Solar powered windows and facadesBusiness opportunity
Windows and building facades that capture light to generate electricity while remaining fully or partially transparent.

What we did
Working with partners we developed concepts and prototype demonstration windows and facades that are lightweight, robust and harvest energy.

Successful implementation of this technology will provide a clear point of difference with widespread applications.


Etel transformerBusiness opportunity
Development of a ‘smart transformer’ for the electricity distribution sector.

What we did
Developed novel fibre optic sensors to monitor the integrity of the transformer in-situ and remotely.

The successful incorporation of hot-spot temperature sensors in the copper windings of the transformer. Products are currently going to market. Development of networks with smart transformers contributes to the delivery of a more efficient and resilient national energy system.

Dulux powder coatings

Dulux powder coatings case studyBusiness opportunity
Current intumescent powder coatings were inadequate to pass fire regulations.

What we did
We hosted a Dulux researcher in our lab and worked collaboratively to develop a new powder-based paint system to withstand 60- and 90-minute fire testing standards.

A successful proof of concept system was demonstrated. Further work is ongoing to refine the formulation to get it market-ready.

Fibre optic sensing for structural health monitoring

Fibre optic sensingBusiness opportunity
Monitor the structural integrity of buildings in-situ and in real time. Why rely on visual inspections when you can have real data?

What we did
We developed novel sensors to monitor stress/strain, temperature, moisture, and gases in remote and harsh environments. We are testing these in a range of environments including inside concrete structures and down geothermal wells.

Success will see greater continuity of service for infrastructure, greater safety in terms of structural health, and optimisation of repairs and maintenance. In other words: savings in costs, time and, potentially, lives.

Self-cleaning surfaces

Self-cleaning surfacesBusiness opportunity
The global commercial cleaning market is tipped to reach $US74B by 2022. What if we could make surfaces that were self-cleaning?

What we did
We have developed a proof of concept self-cleaning coating that can be applied to a range of surfaces.

Opportunities to differentiate products using the coating, to produce and supply novel coatings, and/or to save costs associated with reduced cleaning and maintenance.

Diffuse lighting systems

Diffuse lighting systemsBusiness opportunity
To displace point source lighting with diffuse ‘glowing’ surfaces.

What we are doing
We are exploring the potential to develop novel wave guiding systems to create more even and diffuse lighting systems for a range of applications. We are seeking industry partners interested in the development of such systems.

A successful demonstration of the technology will provide greater clarity of the benefits and de-risk the commercial application of this technology.