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New polymer with shape memory

Friday, January 29, 2016 - 01:54

Chinese scientists develop a polymer with built-in shape memory that can morph into different configurations when heated. Sharon Reich reports.

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Check out this new plastic polymer created by Chinese researchers. It's designed with shape memory, which means that it can change shapes when it's exposed to heat. The scientists at Zhejiang University say it could lead to a new generation of materials for innovations in medicine, electronics and other fields. The approach is being called '4D printing,' since the material's properties shift based on the environment and conditions. Researcher Zhao Qian explains. (SOUNDBITE) (Mandarin) ZHAO QIAN, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR AT COLLEGE OF CHEMICAL AND BIOLOGICAL ENGINEERING OF ZHEJIANG UNIVERSITY, SAYING: "Ordinary ductile materials cannot be folded at high temperatures, because they will flow and the whole system will be plasticised and melt into liquid. Our material, you can see that it's still solid at high temperatures, even though permanent deformation occurs. So we are showing the material's performance by folding it." As the team demonstrates here, a small sheet of the polymer is programmed with a sequence of pre-determined shapes, and shifts repeatedly as the water temperature reaches 140 degrees Fahrenheit or 60 degrees Celsius. And what's really cool -- the shapes look like origami. (SOUNDBITE) (Mandarin) ZOU WEIKE, DOCTORAL STUDENT STUDYING AT COLLEGE OF CHEMICAL AND BIOLOGICAL ENGINEERING OF ZHEJIANG UNIVERSITY, SAYING: "Our material is currently a proof of concept. In terms of its permanent shaping, it is only a paper crane ... similar to a toy at the moment. But we want to promote it for practical applications that have more value, like heart stents or transformable weapons." The researchers' findings are published in the journal Science Advances. And their hope is that by building on it, the technology will lead to incredible developments in shape shifting tools or flexible medical sensors that adjust to body temperature.

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New polymer with shape memory

Friday, January 29, 2016 - 01:54