Super Shape-Shifting Polymer Can Lift 1000 Times Its Own Mass

Posted: Feb 12 2016, 4:30am CST | by , in News | Latest Science News

Super Shape-Shifting Polymer Can Lift 1000 Times Its Own Mass
A multiple-exposure image of a new shape-memory polymer reverting to its original shape after being exposed to body temperature. (University of Rochester photo / J. Adam Fenster)
  • Scientists create Super Shape-Shifting Polymer

Scientists have created what is a super shape-shifting polymer. It will come in handy in the clothing and medical industries.

Scientists at the University of Rochester have managed to create a super polymer that could be highly useful in many fields. It can sustain a 1000 times its own mass and was developed by a research team.

The biggest characteristic of this polymer is its shape-shifting feature. It can take on any shape and then return to its original state after being heated. The temperature which returns it back to its pristine state is just one half of the story of this strange polymer.

“Tuning the trigger temperature is only one part of the story,” said Anthamatten. “We also engineered these materials to store large amount of elastic energy, enabling them to perform more mechanical work during their shape recovery”

The material has huge amounts of elastic energy. Thus it is able to do greater amounts of mechanical work depending upon its shape and state.

The various uses to which this technology could be put include: sutures, fake skin, body heat-aided medical dispensers and clothes that mold themselves in accordance with the body.

The polymer is like a rubber band that takes on the shape which it is stretched to. As simple an action as a single touch can force the polymer to go back to its original shape.

The crystallization process that occurs when the polymer is cooled or taken to its elastic limit was gauged by the scientists. As the material is stretched, crystallites form in the structure and it is fixed and deformed in accordance with the pressures and forces acting on it.

Soon enough stability occurs and it becomes quite difficult to force the polymer into any other shape. The researchers managed to further tweak the shape-shifting traits of this super polymer. A lot of further work needs to be done on the plastic that goes way beyond other plastics.

“Our shape-memory polymer is like a rubber band that can lock itself into a new shape when stretched,” said Anthamatten. “But a simple touch causes it to recoil back to its original shape.”

This supple polymer may even be bent based upon the temperature of the human body. While such polymers that change shape have been made in erstwhile times, this particular one has the special feature of becoming agile when close to body heat.

“Nearly all applications of shape memory polymers will require that the material pushes or pulls on its surroundings,” said Anthamatten. “However, researchers seldom measure the amount of mechanical work that shape-memory polymers are actually performing.”

Medical uses are galore for this sort of polymer. An amount of this polymer that is about the size of a paper clip can lift a mass that is equal to a one liter bottle of mineral water. The polymer is in fact reminiscent of Plastic Man, a flexible hero of comic books introduced before the world in 1941.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/20" rel="author">Sumayah Aamir</a>
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