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GCSE Graphic Products Smart and Modern Materials. Summer Examination 2011. You will need to know a range of smart materials that are used within the graphics industry.

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Presentation Transcript
smart materials

You will need to know a range of smart materials that are used within the graphics industry.

They are used to give special effects, these can help the function or the aesthetics of a product, and can give it a unique selling point. (USP)

Thermochromic materials.

Thermochromic inks are the most common smart material used for graphics, because they can be used in so many different ways, to either attract or warn a consumer.

They can be printed onto different surfaces such as paper, plastic, ceramics or textiles.

The most common use of thermochromic ink is in the thermometers we put on our foreheads to tell whether we have a raised temperature.

The coloured ink changes colour to indicate the temperature of the patient, and once removed will return to its origional colour.

Smart Materials
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Photochromic materials

Photochromic materials change colour according to the amount of light hitting the surface. By far the most common use of this is in the light sensitive glasses such as sunglasses.

Electrochromic materials

Electro chromic inks are inks that change colour according to the varying electrical inputs. The input can be very small but might have dramatic effects. A common use is the car rear view mirrors that darken when the ink detects a bright light, which helps to reduce the glare.

Hydrochromic materials

Hydrochromic inks change colour according to the amount of water they detect. These are quite good for plant pots to help indicate when a plant needs watering.

Phosphorescent materials

Phosphorescent inks are able to absorb light during the day and then glow at night, these are common on fire exit signs in and around school. Many watches also have phosphorescent ink on the hands and numbers to help them glow at night.

Smart Materials
modern materials

A modern material is not smart as it does not react to its surroundings, but it is a modern material that has been around within the last 50 years.


This is an alternative to thermoplastics, and is used in the packaging industry. It is a combination of corn based polymers and simple paper fibers to produce a scratch resistant material that can be moulded to form inserts that can hold a product in place.

It is biodegradable and can be coloured with vegetable dyes. It is lighter weight too to help reduce the carbon emissions in transport.

Paperfoam is commonly used in CD and DVD packaging, and Motorola use it to help packaging and protect their mobile phones.

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Polymorph is a special plastic, often used for modeling in technology, which stays hard and white at room temperature, but can be softened at 60 degrees Celsius. You can then easily mould it into shape using your hands, much like plasticine.

Polymorph is much harder at room temperature, making it ideal for constructing complex shapes, models and prototypes. Due to its toughness it can also be machined with great accuracy.

Polymorph is ideal for ergonomic designs, such as handles, torches and games consoles.

Polymorph can also be classed as a smart materials as it can return to its origional form when heat is removed.

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Nano Technology

You need to know that a Nano technology is a method of changing the atomic structure of a material in order to make them better. Nano technology can make a material less expensive, lighter, stronger, and more precise.

Example: you can change the atomic structure of carbon to create a diamond, or the atomic structure of silicon to create a computer chip.


PMC = Precious Metal Clays, these are made 99.9% metal, normally gold or silver and 0.1% clay, which give them the ability to shaped at room temperature. They are heated until the metal melts. These can be expensive and are mostly used by jewelry designers.

Modern Materials
practice question

This question is about smart and modern materials.

1. A CD sleeve has a symbol printed on it in a ‘smart ink.’ The buyer is asked to put their thumb on the ink and after a moment the symbol disappears.

  • What is the smart material? (2 marks)
  • (i) Name and explain the smart properties of the ink used in the symbol.

(3 marks)

(ii) Explain why such a symbol is used on AQA GCSE certificates. (2 marks)

2. Explain why polymorph and precious metal clays are good modeling materials? (2 marks)

Practice Question