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Functional Materials and Structures

In material science it is common to categorize materials into construction materials and functional materials. Construction materials, also known as structural materials, are non-activatable materials which are primarily used due to their outstanding mechanical properties (such as strength, stiffness, density, hardness, etc.). A classical example for this is steel.

Functional materials however possess properties which allow an energy conversion inside of the material on the basis of physical effects. They can be used directly as material-based energy converter, or it is possible to modify their material properties deliberately and reversible. Functional materials are not assigned to one single material group.

Examples of functional materials are:

  • piezoelectric materials
    (e.g. ZnO, BaTiO3, PVDF, KTN, KNN)
  • optomechanical materials
    (e.g. LiNbO3, KTN, ZnO, SBN, Azo-polymers)
  • shape-memory materials
    (e.g. NiTi, ZrO2, AuCd, CuZnAl)
  • electro active polymers
    (e.g. CNT)
  • electro- und magnetostrictions
    (e.g.PMN, Terfenol-D, Fe3O4).

The phenomenon of functionalization of materials, present in both construction and functional materials, can be observed as soon as a special patterning of the component or its surface happened, such as generating adhesion on plain surfaces by the creation of hexagonal nano-beams. Therefore the campus has put functional structures additionally to functional materials as the main focus of its research fields, carrying both in its name.

Functional structures are materials with special structuring, resulting in a functionalization which exceeds the simple original mechanical application. Thus, functional structures are used to provide components with new properties. The potential of multifunctional utilization of these parts is especially high with functional materials. Those functional structures therefore can be interpreted as advanced special materials with a high degree of functionalization.

Examples for functional structures are:

  • CNT-fibers
  • double coil springs for vibration isolation of rear view mirrors on cars
  • piezoelectric actuators in the form of honeycomb structures
  • nano tubes and helical membranes made of piezoelectric zinc oxide
  • piezoelectric nano composites
  • bio-inspired and selforganizing or potential-based designs

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