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New applications of materials capable of remembering their initial form

They study how to program a self-repairing polymer for use in sectors such as automotive, aerospace or biomedical.

The shape memory is a property of certain materials to recover their initial state after subjecting them to the programming of their form and a subsequent recovery treatment. For this type of technique, heat is usually used as a stimulus for recovery, especially if the material is a polymer, such as the polyethylene used to make the plastic bottles or the nylon fibers used to make the stockings. A scientific team, led by the area of ​​Science and Engineering of Materials of the Rey Juan Carlos University, has studied this capacity in the self-repairing polymer commercially known as Surlyn® (Dupont). It is a material that can be programmed to have shape memory behavior. The main objective of the study was to improve its mechanical properties, such as its modulus of elasticity, tensile strength and deformability.

The tests carried out by the URJC researchers, in collaboration with the Institute of Science and Technology of Polymers (ICTP) of the CSIC, have shown that their mechanical properties can be improved, such as their rigidity and tensile strength, without losing their shape memory capacity when introducing thermal stimuli.

The results of this research have recently been published in the scientific journal Nanocomposites and could be used for new applications in different industrial or biomedical sectors. The work is included within the Multifunctional Materials for the Challenges of the Society (Multimat Challenge) program, financed by the Community of Madrid.

FUTURE USES FOR INDUSTRY OR MEDICAL ENGINEERING

The material studied opens new opportunities for the manufacture of components in the automotive sector. For example, it could be used in anti-shock materials or in paints with self-repair capacity.

Within the aerospace sector it could be used for the thermal control of areas with difficult access.

In the biomedical field, it could also be applied as folded material inside the body, as Antonio Julio López points out: “Making a minimal incision in the patient and, subsequently, unfolding inside due to the effect of body temperature” . Some examples in this sector are vascular grafts and cardiovascular stent.

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