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Polymers that 'could morph into any 3D shapes' developed

Washington, Sat, 10 Mar 2012 ANI

Washington, Mar 10 (ANI): In a new study, scientists employed photographic techniques and polymer science to develop a new technique for printing two-dimensional sheets of polymers that can fold into three-dimensional shapes when water is added.

 

The technique, developed by Christian Santangelo, Ryan Hayward and colleagues from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, may lead to wide ranging practical applications from medicine to robotics

 

They used a photomask and ultraviolet (UV) light to "print" a pattern onto a sheet of polymers, a technique called photolithography.

 

In the absence of UV exposure, the polymer will swell and expand uniformly when exposed to water, however when polymer molecules within the sheet were exposed to UV light they became crosslinked, more rigidly linked together at a number of points, which prevented them from expanding when water was added.

 

Patterning the amount of crosslinking across an entire sheet allowed researchers to control how much each area swelled. A second exposure to a carefully selected pattern of UV light allowed them to create specific 3-D shapes.

 

The work, supported by National Science Foundation (NSF) Faculty Early Career Development and Materials Research Science and Engineering Centers awards, is a collaborative effort between polymer engineering and physics, with both theoretical and experimental aspects.

 

"This paper reports an interesting fusion of experimental technique and theory to develop an innovative method for making self-actuating materials that will assume a desired three-dimensional shape," Daryl Hess, a program director in the division of materials research at NSF, said. (ANI)

 


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