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Structural Applications of Smart Materials in Construction Engineering Using Robotics


Sensors and Actuators designs have mimicked nature to a large extent. Similar to our five senses – sight, sound, smell, taste and touch -correspondingly visual/optical, acoustic/ultrasonic, electrical, chemical and thermal/magnetic sensors have been developed. The response from these primary sensors is converted to electrical signals, which are transmitted to the brain (central processing unit) for further processing. In addition to the processing, the role of the processor is to make decision based on these inputs. This is currently done manually by an experienced operator who has an understanding of the sensing and processing technology. To aid the operator in making a more judicious decision, the conditioned signal has to be presented with as much pertinent information displayed in an arresting way. A further development would be to provide the virtual machine itself to make the judgment – smart sensor. The next stage in this would be for the processor to decide on the course of action and the actuation mechanism to respond accordingly. Virtual human robots can be equipped with sensors, memory, perception, and behavioral motor. This eventually makes these virtual human robots to act or react to events. The design of a behavioral animation system raises questions about creating autonomous actors, endowing them with perception, selecting their actions, their motor control and making their behavior believable and the behavior should be spontaneous and unpredictable.


There is an increasing awareness of the benefits to be derived from the development and exploitation of smart materials and structures in applications ranging from hydrospace to aerospace. With the ability to respond autonomously to changes in their environment, smart systems can offer a simplified approach to the control of various material and system characteristics such as light transmission, viscosity, strain, noise and vibration etc. depending on the smart materials used [1]. There are a number of materials that act as both sensors and actuators that can monitor and respond to their environment. However, with the ability to also modify their properties in response to an environmental change, they can be ‘very smart’ and, in effect, learn. While the scope of sensors and actuators is quite broad, three main sub-programs have been identified – Smart Structures and Materials, Miniature Sensor and Actuators and Automated Testing, Inspection Monitoring and Evaluation. These are exciting times for Sensors and Actuators with the maturing of the enabling technologies of Photonics and Electronics paving the way for inventive and innovative system designs. For the modelling of sensor behaviours, the ultimate objective is to build intelligent autonomous virtual humans with adaptation, perception and memory. These virtual humans should be able to act freely and emotionally. They should be conscious and unpredictable. The virtual humans are expected in the near future to represent computer the concepts of behaviour, intelligence, autonomy, adaptation, perception, memory, freedom, emotion, consciousness, and unpredictability. Behaviour for virtual humans may be defined as a manner of conducting themselves. It is also the response of an individual, group, or species to its environment.
Intelligence may be defined as the ability to learn or understand or to deal with new or trying situations[1].

A. Mechatronic devices

The essential ingredients of any robotic system are sensors, computation and actuators. Appropriate choices of sensors and actuators can simplify a robotic system or may even be the difference between its success and failure. Mechatronic devices are the novel actuators including those based on shape memory alloy, electrorheological fluids, magnetic fluids and the piezoelectic effect as well as a wide range of sensors for measuring quantities of importance for robotic systems [1].

B. Robotic mechanisms

All of the sensors, actuators [1]-[2] and algorithms that are developed should be tested by incorporating them into a mobile robot platform, humanoid robot or fixed manipulator/ gripper system. An extensive experience of building legged, wheeled and tracked land vehicles, submersibles and flying robots as well as robotic grippers and complete humanoid robots are required.

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