Actively Moving Polymers


The ability of polymers to move actively in response to an external stimulus such as heat or light is of high scientific and technological significance. In any instance stimuli-responsive effects on the molecular level are converted into macroscopic movement, whereby generally two different moving behaviors have to be differentiated for polymer-based materials: the shape-memory effect and the shape-changing capability. Basic concepts for the molecular design of suitable polymer architectures for shape-memory polymers as well as tailored programming processes are presented. The thermally-induced shape-memory effect of polymers is described as well as the extension of this concept to other stimuli than heat. Indirect actuation of the thermally-induced effect by IR-irradiation, electric current, humidity or alternating magnetic fields are outlined as well as recent work on light-induced shape-memory polymers. For shape-changing polymers, two basic concepts are presented: shape changes occurring during phase orientation of liquid crystal elastomers (LCE) and the photomechanical effect based on photoisomerization of moieties, such as azo-groups incorporated in suitable polymer systems.
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