Temperature-memory polymer actuators


Reading out the temperature-memory of polymers, which is their ability to remember the temperature where they were deformed recently, is thus far unavoidably linked to erasing this memory effect. Here temperature-memory polymer actuators (TMPAs) based on cross-linked copolymer networks exhibiting a broad melting temperature range (ΔTm) are presented, which are capable of a long-term temperature-memory enabling more than 250 cyclic thermally controlled actuations with almost constant performance. The characteristic actuation temperatures Tacts of TMPAs can be adjusted by a purely physical process, guiding a directed crystallization in a temperature range of up to 40 °C by variation of the parameter Tsep in a nearly linear correlation. The temperature Tsep divides ΔTm into an upper Tm range (T > Tsep) forming a reshapeable actuation geometry that determines the skeleton and a lower Tm range (T < Tsep) that enables the temperature-controlled bidirectional actuation by crystallization-induced elongation and melting-induced contraction. The macroscopic bidirectional shape changes in TMPAs could be correlated with changes in the nanostructure of the crystallizable domains as a result of in situ X-ray investigations. Potential applications of TMPAs include heat engines with adjustable rotation rate and active building facades with self-regulating sun protectors.
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