Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Agile plastics change shape with heat

Researchers at MIT and the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centers have invented a class of materials so remarkable for their agility in changing shape as they react to heat, they might be described as acrobatic plastics.

The new materials, known as "triple-shape materials," can assume three different shapes, each shape depending on how much heat is applied.

This landmark achievement comes from the laboratories of chemical engineer Robert Langer of MIT and polymer chemist Andreas Lendlein of the Helmholtz Institute in Teltow, Germany.

"Triple-shape materials can switch from shape A, then to shape B, and on to shape C," Lendlein explained. "Using two, rather than just one, shape-changes offers unique opportunities for applications such as 'intelligent' stents, or 'smart' fastener systems" for use in assembling commercial products, he said.

An "intelligent stent" made of the new class of plastics could assume three different shapes to facilitate medical procedures: It would assume a handy oval shape for insertion, then a fully inflated round shape for temporary use inside a blood vessel, duct or other cylindrical organ, and lastly, a compressed cylindrical shape for easy removal.

The triple-shape-shift from shape A to B to C could also have applications in industry. In factories, changeable plastic fasteners could be implanted in, or attached to, one part, then heated to extend an arm to another part. With further heating, the fastener would change shape yet again to lock itself in place. In effect, it would be an automated form of self-assembly.

Langer, an MIT Institute Professor, said, "It's like a new principle in materials, and it will be producing new opportunities. I imagine that if you had things you want to install, and then remove," the ability to change their shapes at will could be useful. "It's the first time I've seen something that will go from shape A to shape B and then shape C."

A paper on the work will appear in the Nov. 28 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Langer and Lendlein's coauthors are Ph.D. student Ingo Bellin and polymer chemist Steffen Kelch. Both work with Lendlein, who is leading the Center for Biomaterial Development in Teltow, near Berlin.

In earlier work, Lendlein and Langer invented a dual-shape class of materials, leading to what they call a "smart suture" that changes shape as needed for surgery (, and they introduced a plastic that changes shape when activated by light ( In November 2005 they received the World Technology Network Award for these achievements.

Elizabeth A. Thomson | MIT News Office
Further information:

More articles from Materials Sciences:

nachricht 3-D-printed structures shrink when heated
26.10.2016 | Massachusetts Institute of Technology

nachricht From ancient fossils to future cars
21.10.2016 | University of California - Riverside

All articles from Materials Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Greater Range and Longer Lifetime

26.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VDI presents International Bionic Award of the Schauenburg Foundation

26.10.2016 | Awards Funding

3-D-printed magnets

26.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

More VideoLinks >>>