What are materials and systems?

To account for strong foundations of building structures, and other civil engineering constructions, the right selection of materials and systems is very crucial. A wrong decision in material selection can be fatal in terms of lives and the economy. Materials form all the major raw inputs that are used in constructions. The major constituents of civil engineering construction materials include steel structures, trusses, concrete, cement, mortar, bricks, refractory lining bricks, etc. Materials also include all the inputs needed to build systems for civil engineering analysis and research purposes. They are instruments, devices for measuring output, input data, and so on.

With the advancement of science and technology in recent years, there has been significant growth in systems research and materials-related technology. The area under materials science and technology emphasizes the research and development of new engineering materials to account for different engineering challenges. Research and development in materials thrive in improving the properties of materials regarding strength and durability, imposing new mechanical strength, thermal resistances, improved resilient properties, chemical, and physical properties.

A significant improvement in the device's robustness is necessary to aid materials development, research, and analysis. Many new instruments should be built to handle complex data and engineering analysis. This area majorly focuses on systems development.

Composites - the future of technology

Composite is a material, primarily composed of two materials having different physical and chemical properties. A combination of these two materials results in another material with its distinct properties. Composites, when combined intend to do specific tasks. They can be extreme insulators, lightweight with improved strength and sustainability of the structure, superior hot hardness, and many more.
All the composites are composed of a base material (matrix), which acts as a reinforcement material. On this reinforcement material, generally, other material fibers are added to form an aggregate mixture. There are various types of composite materials that are used in civil engineering applications. They are ceramic matrix composites, metal matrix composites, and engineered wood.

Ceramic Matrix Composites (CMC)

Ceramic matrix composites are composite materials where ceramic fibers are reinforced with ceramic matrix. The reinforcing materials of the CMC are carbon, silicon carbide, alumina, silica, and alumina. There are a wide number of applications that include heat exchangers, large boilers for heating water, hybrid engines, thermal barriers, high strength, durable wall systems, and so on.

Ceramic matrix composites used for the production of shaft sleeves.
CC BY-SA 3.0 | Image Credits: https://commons.wikimedia.org | Dr. Karin E. Handrick

Metal Matrix Composites (MMC)

The MMCs are ceramic materials where at least one component is a metal and the other component can be either a metal or other ceramic material. It is also sometimes referred to as hybrid composites. They have high resilient properties, high friction coefficient, and high thermal conductivity. The major use of these composites is in refractory wall systems, inner lines of heating furnaces, aerospace, transportation, defense, marine, and many more.

Engineered wood

Plywood is a popular example in this category. Engineered wood is a composite wood made of slices of wood veneers that are stacked and glued together under high pressure. Their grain fibers are rotated at an angle of 90 degrees. There are numerous civil engineering and architectural applications of these woods. High stiffness and longevity are the most important properties which are responsible for the popularity of these wood products.

Systems research and engineering

Systems research and engineering is the branch of engineering that deals with the application of knowledge of science and technology to develop and introduce new technological innovations that aid in sustainability in civil engineering structures and their related approaches, research, and development of new devices, and instruments. The branch involves making use of different concepts of science. It is more optimization-oriented and involves operations research approaches. It is more planning and design-focused, continuously thriving to produce techniques and processes, which target the development of innovations.

Processing systems

Structural engineering majorly relies upon data from buildings and structures for live analysis like the modal analysis. The presence of fast, accurate, and robust data processing systems is necessary. Data processing systems are a method of producing outputs by a set of inputs. The outputs of such systems are functions of men and machines both. Conversion, sorting, validating, summarization, aggregation, reporting and analysis, all form part of data processing.

Sensing systems

Taking the example of modal analysis, the acquirement of data is achieved through using advanced and precise sensors like acceleration sensors and Microelectromechanical system (MEMS) sensors. Other sensors that are aggressively used in civil engineering applications are thermal sensors, photosensors, piezoelectric sensors, and so on. Sensors employ energy conversion techniques or principles to convert one form of energy to another. A complete sensing system involves sensors, signal processors, and displays. New problems in science and engineering involve challenging quantiles to be detected in a short time but with a high degree of accuracy, this involves the requirement of more sophisticated technologies in sensor development. Zero skipping of data and accuracy close to real-time data are the requirement of such sensing systems.

Hydrogen as a fuel for future hybrid systems

Hydrogen is regarded as a fuel of the future. It is also referred to as a blue fuel with zero carbon emission or other harmful gases. The use of such fuel in automotive hybrid systems has accounted for the increase in energy efficiency. Advanced civil engineering projects demand the use of heavy and sophisticated machinery. With an increase in size and complexity of work, the requirement of heavy machinery is important. It emphasizes on fuel consumption and increasing by-products enough to pollute the environment. It is necessary to utilize clean fuel sources in hybrid systems to tackle such problems. Hybrid systems are those that use the method of twin fuel consumption principle. The pollutant emission from such a system is zero.
The hydrogen fuel cell technology that consumes pure hydrogen as a part of a chemical reaction results in wider applications, with high energy output to heavy machinery and sophisticated equipment.

Context and Applications

This topic finds its extensive use in various undergraduate and postgraduate degree courses of:

  • Bachelor in Technology (Civil engineering, Mechanical engineering)
  • Masters of Technology (Civil engineering, Mechanical engineering)
  • Masters in Science in Hybrid systems
  • Masters in Science in Materials science

Practice Problems

Q 1. Which of the following are the essential properties of a sensing system?

  1. High sensitivity
  2. Precession
  3. Quick response time
  4. All of these

Answer: Option d

Explanation: A sensing system should have high sensitivity, i.e., it should be able to capture every real-time signal without skipping even a minute signal. Skipping any signal will lead to wrong analysis and lead formation of measurement error. Moreover, a sensing system should have a quick response time and high precession.

Q 2. Which of the following devices uses hydrogen as fuel?

  1. Batteries
  2. Fuel cell
  3. Both batteries and fuel cell
  4. None of these

Answer: Option b

Explanation: A fuel cell is a device that uses hydrogen as a fuel.

Q 3. Which of the following is true of the temperature sensor?

  1. It is a function of temperature.
  2. It is a function of the acceleration of the structure.
  3. It is a function of fluid velocity.
  4. It is a function of the energy of photons.

Answer: Option a

Explanation: The temperature sensor is a function of temperature.

Q 4. Which of the following forms a part of the processing system?

  1. Sorting
  2. Aggregation
  3. Validating
  4. All of these

Answer: Option d

Explanation: Aggregation, validating, and sorting are the parts of a processing system.

Q 5. What is the full form of MEMS?

  1. Micro-electrical mechanical system
  2. Micro-electrical magnetic system
  3. Microelectromechanical system
  4. Microelectronic mechanical system

Answer: Option c

Explanation: The abbreviation of MEMS is the microelectromechanical system.

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