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The University of Southampton

Helping marine businesses get Smart

Published: 4 September 2008

Structural materials that self-repair when cracked and a self-cleaning bathroom are just two examples of what ‘smart’ materials and systems can do.

Smart materials will be the subject of a seminar being run by the University of Southampton in partnership with SMART.mat (the Smart Materials node of the Materials Knowledge Transfer Network) and the British Marine Federation (BMF), for marine businesses during the Southampton Boat Show.

A smart material or system is able to sense and respond to environmental factors such as stress, temperature, moisture, pH and electric or magnetic fields.

There is huge potential for the use of smart technologies within the marine sector – for example in the areas of waste reduction, power harvesting, clothing and structural design. They open up a wide range of new possibilities in creating or enhancing competitive products in engineering design, materials and manufacturing processes.

Speakers from organisations across maritime industry, including the RNLI, BVT Surface Fleet, the BMF and Corus will demonstrate how they are using smart materials successfully and highlight the potential benefits for other marine businesses.

Southampton-based company, Insensys, recently developed the 'smart mast' for the superyacht, the Maltese Falcon. The carbon-fibre composite masts have embedded optical fibre sensors which report strain and stress data to the bridge. Such functionality offers huge advantages and helps the captain to immediately determine the optimum sail setting, by showing load and forward driving force of each rig. This technology is also now in active use in the oil and gas industries, plus the aerospace and wind energy sectors.

Professor Ajit Shenoi, who leads the University of Southampton’s Ship Science division, comments: “The aerospace and automotive sectors are already seeing the benefits of smart materials. The purpose of this event is to bring together representatives from the marine industry to explore how UK marine businesses can gain a commercial, competitive advantage in this area.”

The ‘Smart Technologies for Marine Applications’ seminar takes place on Tuesday 16 September and is free for all marine businesses to attend. It will take place at the Tudor Merchants Hall, Westgate, Southampton, close to Gate F of the Southampton Boat Show, starting at 2.30pm and closing with a drinks reception.

To find out more, visit:

To register your attendance, please sign up online or email

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