Two-way reversible shape memory effects in a free-standing polymer composite

Kristofer K. Westbrook, Patrick T. Mather, Vikas Parakh, Martin L. Dunn, Qi Ge, Brendan M. Lee, H. Jerry Qi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

137 Scopus citations


Shape memory polymers (SMPs) have attracted significant research efforts due to their ease in manufacturing and highly tailorable thermomechanical properties. SMPs can be temporarily programmed and fixed in a nonequilibrium shape and are capable of recovering the original undeformed shape upon exposure to a stimulus, the most common being temperature. Most SMPs exhibit a one-way shape memory (1W-SM) effect since one programming step can only yield one shape memory cycle; an additional shape memory cycle requires an extra programming step. Recently, a novel SMP that demonstrates both 1W-SM and two-way shape memory (2W-SM) effects was demonstrated by one of the authors (Mather). However, to achieve two-way actuation this SMP relies on a constant externally applied load. In this paper, an SMP composite where a pre-stretched 2W-SMP is embedded in an elastomeric matrix is developed. This composite demonstrates 2W-SM effects in response to changes in temperature without the requirement of a constant external load. A transversal actuation of ∼ 10% of actuator length is achieved. Cyclic tests show that the transversal actuation stabilizes after an initial training cycle and shows no significant decreases after four cycles. A simple analytic model considering the programming stress and actuator dimensions is presented and shown to agree well with the transverse displacement of the actuator. The model also predicts that larger actuation can be achieved when larger pre-stretch of 2W-SMP is used. The scheme used for this polymer composite can promote the design of new shape memory composites at micro-and nano-length scales to meet different application requirements.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number065010
JournalSmart Materials and Structures
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Signal Processing
  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics
  • General Materials Science
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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