A group of scientists at the University of Rochester in New York said that they developed a heat-sensitive polymer that can hold 1000 times its own mass. The ‘super polymer’ is so versatile that it memorizes its initial shape and turns back to its initial position if temperature changes.
Researchers believe that the new material could have life-saving applications in health industry. The polymer was developed by a Prof. Mitch Anthamatten and one of his graduate students. Scientists explained that the material can be designed to memorize its initial shape, and go back to its initial state when it comes in contact with body heat.
Anthamatten explained that the team worked not only on finding the right temperature that could trigger a change in shape, but they also invested the material with enough elastic energy to become incredibly versatile while it tries to recover its original shape.
The engineers said that they obtained a shape-memory material after they were able to control the crystallization processes that occur when the material comes in contact with body heat or it is stretched.
By tuning the number and types of polymer chains or crystallites in the material, the team managed to insert a heat trigger in the polymer that prompts it to revert to its original shape also known as the permanent shape.
The research team explained that a temperature close to the body heat makes the polymer links to lose stiffness and even break apart, so the polymer returns to its initial state. Engineers likened the new material to a rubber band that can freeze in a temporary shape but revert to its original self through a simple touch.
What’s more the polymer is not only versatile but it can also carry weights that are a lot heavier than its own mass. Anthamatten explained that the material can bear a lot of load because it was imbued with tremendous plastic energy.
The idea behind the shape shifting material was to allow it to pull as much of its surrounding material as it could on its way to its initial shape. Researchers said that the material is so sturdy that if it is shaped as a shoe lace it could pull a liter of Coke all by itself.
Researchers hope that their material could soon be shaped into artificial skin, sutures, and other smart medical devices that can greatly improve quality of life of patients affected by debilitating conditions.
Image Source: Rochester.edu