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History of GMM Technology

What Are Smart Materials?
The term smart materials refers to a class of materials that are highly responsive and have the inherent capability to sense and react according to changes in the environment. These materials have been developed to work more smartly and efficiently than their predecessors. Early smart material applications started with magnetostrictive technologies. This involved the use of nickel as a sonar source during World War I to find German U-boats by Allied forces. Although limited by its power density and strain capabilities, nickel is still used today in cleaning baths at ultrasonic (above the range of human hearing) frequencies.

Piezoceramics, one of the main types of smart materials, were initially discovered by Pierre and Jacques Curie. They identified the electric response made when crystals of sugar and Rochelle salt were subjected to mechanical stress. This development in 1880 began what is now a $600 million industry. In addition to these nickel sonar transducers, work began in France on the development of an ultrasonic submarine detector that would emit a high frequency "chirp" and measure its depth by timing the return echo. The success of sonar then stimulated intense research and development into a variety of piezoelectric (ceramic) formulations and shapes.

However, piezoceramic materials do have limitations - namely fatigue and aging.

Therefore, in the 1960's the US Naval Ordnance Laboratory began work on new materials that would be able to send out stronger sonar signals. By this time, the Ames Laboratory at the Iowa State University had done considerable work in the separation and processing of rare earths to prepare high purity rare earth metals. This led to an alliance between the Naval Ordnance Laboratory and Ames Laboratory, which developed a processing technique to produce these "giant magnetostrictive" materials in research quantities.

This feat, and subsequent patent activity, led to the birth of a new generation of smart materials that form the basis of FeONIC plc's own expanding IP portfolio that underpins all of our new products.