Temperature-controlled reversible pore size change of electrospun fibrous shape-memory polymer actuator based meshes


Fibrous membranes capable of dynamically responding to external stimuli are highly desirable in textiles and biomedical materials, where adaptive behavior is required to accommodate complex environmental changes. For example, the creation of fabrics with temperature-dependent moisture permeability or self-regulating membranes for air filtration is dependent on the development of materials that exhibit a reversible stimuli-responsive pore size change. Here, by imbuing covalently crosslinked poly(ε-caprolactone) (cPCL) fibrous meshes with a reversible bidirectional shape-memory polymer actuation (rbSMPA) we create a material capable of temperature-controlled changes in porosity. Cyclic thermomechanical testing was used to characterize the mechanical properties of the meshes, which were composed of randomly arranged microfibers with diameters of 2.3 ± 0.6 μm giving an average pore size of approx. 10 μm. When subjected to programming strains of ε m = 300% and 100% reversible strain changes of εʹrev = 22% ± 1% and 6% ± 1% were measured, with switching temperature ranges of 10 °C–30 °C and 45 °C–60 °C for heating and cooling, respectively. The rbSMPA of cPCL fibrous meshes generated a microscale reversible pore size change of 11% ± 3% (an average of 1.5 ± 0.6 μm), as measured by scanning electron microscopy. The incorporation of a two-way shape-memory actuation capability into fibrous meshes is anticipated to advance the development and application of smart membrane materials, creating commercially viable textiles and devices with enhanced performance and novel functionality.
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