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Structuring of the work

The work will be divided in 5 scientific workpackages (WP) and in 5 demonstrators (DEMO):

  • The WPs correspond to the major scientific axes of ACTION.
  • The DEMOs correspond to ambitious still not existing systems for translating the Labex objectives into real systems. They can also bring during their development new ideas for new products and applications corresponding to economic and societal expectations.




The project aims at designing smart objects, obtained by integrating smart functions at the heart of materials and structures. Such smart functions will often rely on “active” materials, however the elaboration of new materials is not the main goal of this project, which is instead oriented to the structuring of bulk materials in order to provide efficient and precisely controllable behaviours. More specifically the program is oriented towards design and elaboration of structures that will make the most of the material properties.

In practice, it will rely on two main types of structured materials:

Programmable materials

“Any bulk substance that can be programmed to change its physical properties (shape, density, moduli, optical properties, etc.), based upon user input or autonomous sensing”. This definition applies either to active materials (like piezoelectric or magnetostrictive materials, liquid crystals, shape memory alloys, etc.), of which properties can be changed based on some inputs, and to recent structured materials like metamaterials, that are artificially structured to enhance specific material properties, or which exhibit properties that cannot be obtained in a bulk material (e.g. a negative refractive index).


Smart structures

“Structures that are capable of sensing or modifying their environment, through the integration of various elements (sensors, actuators, power sources, signal processors, and communications network)”. Such smart structures will be a kind of new composite structure, which can be referred as metacomposites. One can mention for instance Smart Skins, which are fabrics that contain sensors able to detect vital signs of humans, or integrated information processing chips that can also be viewed as metacomposites, able to perform high-level tasks such as signal routing or multiplexing.


The final goal will be to design and demonstrate Smart Systems embedded inside materials, based on the 3 following research topics:

  • Study and design of programmable materials, which are active or passive materials of which properties can be obtained by a proper structuring (ex. Photonic or Phononic crystalsSelf-organized molecular layersPhoton Sieves, etc.). Such materials can be used for instance to enhance modulation capabilities of electrooptic materials, to make efficient acoustic isolation panels, or to protect sensitive components from thermal diffusion;

  • Study and design of metacomposite structures, embedding mixtures of many spatially distributed active/passive components, which are able to perform new functions. For instance an integrated optical processing chip can be viewed as a metacomposite structure comprising sources, sensors and active components, and capable of processing optical information. As well, distributed MEMS metacomposites can be designed to make deformable structures, or arrays of Micro Ultrasonic Transducers can be used to scan or focus an ultrasound spot.

  • Then the design of Smart Systems embedded inside matter can be obtained by the development of new control architecture that rely on information science state-of-the-art concepts, and will provide self-reconfigurability or self-tuning functions, hence transforming an active structure into a genuine system. Such a system can provide smart functions, such as active cancelling of acoustic noise or neuromorphic optical computing.


Such Smart Systems embedded inside matter can be used in information processing, recognition & identification, energy systems, mechatronics, or structural health monitoring (SHM).

The provided services are well represented - in European roadmaps - by the concept of “ambient intelligence”.