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 Researchers demonstrate existence of new form of electronic matter
15.03.2018 | University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

nachricht Boron can form a purely honeycomb, graphene-like 2-D structure
15.03.2018 | Science China Press

All articles from Materials Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Locomotion control with photopigments

Researchers from Göttingen University discover additional function of opsins

Animal photoreceptors capture light with photopigments. Researchers from the University of Göttingen have now discovered that these photopigments fulfill an...

Im Focus: Surveying the Arctic: Tracking down carbon particles

Researchers embark on aerial campaign over Northeast Greenland

On 15 March, the AWI research aeroplane Polar 5 will depart for Greenland. Concentrating on the furthest northeast region of the island, an international team...

Im Focus: Unique Insights into the Antarctic Ice Shelf System

Data collected on ocean-ice interactions in the little-researched regions of the far south

The world’s second-largest ice shelf was the destination for a Polarstern expedition that ended in Punta Arenas, Chile on 14th March 2018. Oceanographers from...

Im Focus: ILA 2018: Laser alternative to hexavalent chromium coating

At the 2018 ILA Berlin Air Show from April 25–29, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT is showcasing extreme high-speed Laser Material Deposition (EHLA): A video documents how for metal components that are highly loaded, EHLA has already proved itself as an alternative to hard chrome plating, which is now allowed only under special conditions.

When the EU restricted the use of hexavalent chromium compounds to special applications requiring authorization, the move prompted a rethink in the surface...

Im Focus: Radar for navigation support from autonomous flying drones

At the ILA Berlin, hall 4, booth 202, Fraunhofer FHR will present two radar sensors for navigation support of drones. The sensors are valuable components in the implementation of autonomous flying drones: they function as obstacle detectors to prevent collisions. Radar sensors also operate reliably in restricted visibility, e.g. in foggy or dusty conditions. Due to their ability to measure distances with high precision, the radar sensors can also be used as altimeters when other sources of information such as barometers or GPS are not available or cannot operate optimally.

Drones play an increasingly important role in the area of logistics and services. Well-known logistic companies place great hope in these compact, aerial...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

International Tinnitus Conference of the Tinnitus Research Initiative in Regensburg

13.03.2018 | Event News

International Virtual Reality Conference “IEEE VR 2018” comes to Reutlingen, Germany

08.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

Wandering greenhouse gas

16.03.2018 | Earth Sciences

'Frequency combs' ID chemicals within the mid-infrared spectral region

16.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Biologists unravel another mystery of what makes DNA go 'loopy'

16.03.2018 | Life Sciences

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>