Shape-Memory Smart Material is Light-Activated & Self-Heals


Smart materials that can react to external stimuli, like light or heat, have a variety of potential applications, such as for actuators, drug delivery systems, and self-assembling devices. Smart materials could change shape to unfold a solar panel on a space satellite without need of a battery-powered mechanical device, for example. Washington State University researchers have developed a unique, multifunctional smart material that can change shape from heat or light and assemble and disassemble itself. This is the first time researchers have been able to combine several smart abilities, including shape memory behavior, light-activated movement and self-healing behavior, into one material. The team worked with a class of long-chain molecules, called liquid crystalline networks (LCNs), which provide order in one direction and give material unique properties. The researchers took advantage of the way the material changes in response to heat to induce a unique three-way shape shifting behavior.