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Shape-Memory Polymers Temperature Morphing

Shape-memory polymers created by researchers from MIT and the Institute of Polymer Research in Germany can morph into three different structures - and then revert back to its original shape - in response to specific changes in temperature.

See the shape-shifting polymers do their thing in the video below; it shows a fastener which unfolds itself and then extends two arms to secure the structure to a plastic container. This item could be used on assembly lines to fasten small parts in difficult-to-reach places.


(Shape-shifting polymer has three temperature-controlled shapes)

Another unique use for shape-memory polymers is proposed in biodegradable sutures that shape themselves.


(Shape-memory polymer biodegradable sutures)

To test this concept, researchers Dr Andreas Lendlein and Dr Robert Langer made sutures by heating fibers of their ‘shape shifting’ material to 50°C. They were then stretched to three times their length and cooled to room temperature. These extended fibers were then used to loosely stitch a wound on a rat. When the suture was heated to 41°C (just above body temperature), the thread tightened and closed the wound, applying just the right amount of pressure (0.1 N). Later, after the wound is healed, the material is designed to dissolve and is harmlessly absorbed by the body.

Like those shape-memory toys?

Update: 21-Oct-2016: The first time I read about the idea of a shape memory alloy was in Samuel R. Delany's 1966 novel Babel-17; see the entry for tensile memory polarized matter. End update.

More on shape-memory polymers and shape-memory biodegradable sutures.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 11/25/2006)

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