Thermomechanical behavior of shape memory elastomeric composites

Qi Ge, Xiaofan Luo, Erika D. Rodriguez, Xiao Zhang, Patrick T. Mather, Martin L. Dunn, H. Jerry Qi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

91 Scopus citations


Shape memory polymers (SMPs) can fix a temporary shape and recover their permanent shape in response to environmental stimuli such as heat, electricity, or irradiation. Most thermally activated SMPs use the macromolecular chain mobility change around the glass transition temperature (Tg) to achieve the shape memory (SM) effects. During this process, the stiffness of the material typically changes by three orders of magnitude. Recently, a composite materials approach was developed to achieve thermally activated shape memory effect where the material exhibits elastomeric response in both the temporary and the recovered configurations. These shape memory elastomeric composites (SMECs) consist of an elastomeric matrix reinforced by a semicrystalline polymer fiber network. The matrix provides background rubber elasticity while the fiber network can transform between solid crystals and melt phases over the operative temperature range. As such it serves as a reversible switching phase that enables shape fixing and recovery. Shape memory elastomeric composites provide a new paradigm for the development of a wide array of active polymer composites that utilize the meltcrystal transition to achieve the shape memory effect. This potentially allows for material systems with much simpler chemistries than most shape memory polymers and thus can facilitate more rapid material development and insertion. It is therefore important to understand the thermomechanical behavior and to develop corresponding material models. In this paper, a 3D finite-deformation constitutive modeling framework was developed to describe the thermomechanical behavior of SMEC. The model is phenomenological, although inspired by micromechanical considerations of load transfer between the matrix and fiber phases of a composite system. It treats the matrix as an elastomer and the fibers as a complex solid that itself is an aggregate of melt and crystal phases that evolve from one to the other during a temperature change. As such, the composite consists of an elastomer reinforced by a soft liquid at high temperature and a stiff solid at low temperature. The model includes a kinetic description of the non-isothermal crystallization and melting of the fibers during a temperature change. As the fibers transform from melt to crystal during cooling it is assumed that new crystals are formed in an undeformed state, which requires careful tracking of the kinematics of the evolving phases which comes at a significant computational cost. In order to improve the computational efficiency, an effective phase model (EPM) is adopted to treat the evolving crystal phases as an effective medium. A suite of careful thermomechanical experiments with a SMEC was carried out to calibrate various model parameters, and then to demonstrate the ability of the model to accurately capture the shape memory behavior of the SMEC system during complex thermomechanical loading scenarios. The model also identifies the effects of microstructural design parameters such as the fiber volume fraction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)67-83
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of the Mechanics and Physics of Solids
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2012


  • Constitutive models
  • Shape memory
  • Shape memory polymers
  • Soft active materials
  • Thermomechanical behaviors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering


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