Bioperspectives for Shape-Memory Polymers as Shape Programmable, Active Materials


Within the natural world, organisms use information stored in their material structure to generate a physical response to a wide variety of environmental changes. The ability to program synthetic materials to intrinsically respond to environmental changes in a similar manner has the potential to revolutionize material science. By designing polymeric devices capable of responsively changing shape or behavior based on information encoded into their structure, we can create functional physical behavior, including a shape-memory and an actuation capability. Here we highlight the stimuli-responsiveness and shape-changing ability of biological materials and biopolymer-based materials, plus their potential biomedical application, providing a bioperspective on shape-memory materials. We address strategies to incorporate a shape-memory (actuation) function in polymeric materials, conceptualized in terms of its relationship with inputs (environmental stimuli) and outputs (shape change). Challenges and opportunities associated with the integration of several functions in a single material body to achieve multifunctionality are discussed. Finally, we describe how elements that sense, convert, and transmit stimuli have been used to create multisensitive materials.
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