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ACS Appl Mater Interfaces. 2019 Jul 3;11(26):23623-23631. doi: 10.1021/acsami.9b06608. Epub 2019 Jun 22.

Photoplastic Transformation Based on Dynamic Covalent Chemistry.

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Wuhan National Laboratory for Optoelectronics, School of Optical and Electronic Information , Huazhong University of Science and Technology , Wuhan , Hubei 430074 , China.
School of Industrial Engineering , Purdue University , West Lafayette , Indiana 47907 , United States.


The magical fantasy of decades-old transformer characters is becoming closer to scientific reality, as transformable materials can change their shapes in response to thermal, mechanical, electrical, and chemical stimuli. However, precise and prompt control of plastic shaping remains to be wanted. Photoresponsive materials provide a promising alternative for rapid optomechanical shaping with limited success. Here, we report a new class of photoplastic transformation based on dynamic covalently crosslinked polytriazole (PTA) networks, in which crosslinking points are comprised of photocleaveable hexaarylbiimidazole (HABI). Upon sub-500 nm light irradiation, HABI is dissociated into two triphenylimidazole radicals (TPIRs) followed by spontaneous recombination back to the initial state. This photoswitching effect is demonstrated to generate nonthermal shape change in the PTA-HABI gel network at will upon light stimulus. A unique photoalignment phenomenon has also been discovered which can form oriented nanoscale patterning in the PTA-HABI gel network upon laser irradiation. The solvent-free PTA-HABI elastomer exhibits photoenhanced automatic self-healing properties at temperatures ranging from 25 °C to freezing points, which is attributed to the dynamic equilibrium between TPIRs and HABI. A photoplastic spring is fabricated and exhibits photoswitchable plastic behavior, i.e., a reversible transformation between plastic strain and elastic strain upon light irradiation. HABI-based polymer networks, including solvated gel and solvent-free elastomer, are promising as smart materials for nonthermal photoactivated shape changing, transformation, and self-healing applications.


crosslinked polymer; dynamic covalent bond; hexaarylbiimidazole; photoinduced deformation; self-healing


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