Intrinsically smart structural composites are multifunctional structural materials which can perform functions such as sensing strain, stress, damage or temperature; thermoelectric energy generation; EMI shielding; electric current rectification; and vibration reduction. These capabilities are rendered by the use of materials science concepts to enhance functionality without compromising structural properties. They are not achieved by the embedding of devices in the structure. Intrinsically smart structural composites have been attained in cement-matrix composites containing short electrically conducting fibers and in polymer-matrix composites with continuous carbon fibers. Cement-matrix composites are important for infrastructure, while polymer-matrix composites are useful for lightweight structures.Smart structures are important because of their relevance to hazard mitigation, structural vibration control, structural health monitoring, transportation engineering, thermal control, and energy saving. Research on smart structures has emphasized the incorporation of various devices in a structure for providing sensing, energy dissipation, actuation, control or other functions. Work on smart composites has focused on the incorporation of a functional material or device in a matrix material for enhancing the smartness or durability, while that on smart materials has studied materials (e.g. piezoelectric) used for making relevant devices. However, relatively little attention has been given to the development of structural materials (e.g. concrete and composites) that are inherently able to provide some of the smart functions, so that the need for embedded or attached devices is reduced or eliminated, thereby lowering cost, enhancing durability, increasing the smart volume, and minimizing mechanical property degradation (which usually occurs in the case of embedded devices).

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DOI: 10.1016/S1369-7021(02)05140-4