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New Scalable Approach toward Shape Memory Polymer Composites via “Spring-Buckle” Microstructure Design

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posted on 30.03.2017, 00:00 by Xiaodong Wu, Yangyang Han, Zehang Zhou, Xinxing Zhang, Canhui Lu
Shape memory polymers (SMPs) have attracted tremendous research interest since their discovery. However, most advances in research of SMPs are based on molecular designs, i.e., “bottom-up” strategies. Due to the viscoelasticity of polymers, slow and incomplete shape variations are inevitable for most existing SMPs. Here, we propose a simple and scalable approach to design and fabricate SMP composites (SMPCs) based on a “spring-buckle” microstructure design. Specifically, a highly elastic “spring” is employed as a basic skeleton for the SMPCs, onto which self-adhesive and stimuli-responsive “buckles” are installed as reversible switch units. The resultant SMPCs with such “spring-buckle” microstructure enable quick programming at ambient temperature and ultrafast (2–3 s) and nearly complete (∼100%) shape recovery triggered by organic solvents, benefiting from a unique capillary effect. This structural approach provides a novel design philosophy for shape memory materials and opens up new opportunities for their applications in sensor, actuator, aerospace, and other applications.