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Sci Rep. 2016 Jun 15;6:27933. doi: 10.1038/srep27933.

Shape-morphing composites with designed micro-architectures.

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Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, 7000 East Avenue, Livermore, California, 94550, USA.


Shape memory polymers (SMPs) are attractive materials due to their unique mechanical properties, including high deformation capacity and shape recovery. SMPs are easier to process, lightweight, and inexpensive compared to their metallic counterparts, shape memory alloys. However, SMPs are limited to relatively small form factors due to their low recovery stresses. Lightweight, micro-architected composite SMPs may overcome these size limitations and offer the ability to combine functional properties (e.g., electrical conductivity) with shape memory behavior. Fabrication of 3D SMP thermoset structures via traditional manufacturing methods is challenging, especially for designs that are composed of multiple materials within porous microarchitectures designed for specific shape change strategies, e.g. sequential shape recovery. We report thermoset SMP composite inks containing some materials from renewable resources that can be 3D printed into complex, multi-material architectures that exhibit programmable shape changes with temperature and time. Through addition of fiber-based fillers, we demonstrate printing of electrically conductive SMPs where multiple shape states may induce functional changes in a device and that shape changes can be actuated via heating of printed composites. The ability of SMPs to recover their original shapes will be advantageous for a broad range of applications, including medical, aerospace, and robotic devices.

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