Whether you call them functional polymers or functional materials, these smart materials can sense and then respond according to environmental changes. And these adaptive materials are revolutionizing product design with their nearly endless potential.
Resident plastics expert Andy Pye has written a comprehensive white paper on the subject called “Understanding Functional Polymers: How Smart Materials Are Impacting the Plastics Industry.” In it, he highlights a variety of functional polymers and their innovative applications. Below, we’ve pulled out some of the top applications for functional polymers.
Both 4D-printing and auxetic materials flex their shape-changing muscles in changing environments. In the white paper, read how researchers are experimenting with structures that can fold and unfold themselves, and “hinged” cellular mechanics. Applications include aerospace solar arrays, self-expanding medical stents, and energy-absorbing body armor.
Electrical current is one of the common mechanisms to induce change in smart materials. In the case of electro-active polymers (EAPs), voltage elicits grab/hold and contract/expand mechanisms. Conductive adhesives offer lead-free solder alternatives, particularly helpful when bonding circuitry and surface mount components. Additionally, piezoelectric materials generate an electric charge when subjected to mechanical stress. Applications include robotics, sensors, and temperature-sensitive bonding opportunities.
3. UV activation
Applying electromagnetic radiation in the form of UV light can also create performance changes. Photochromic materials change from colorless to colored when exposed to visible light and UV light, then back again when light is removed. In theory, this technology could be used to temporarily display a QR code or barcode. Exposure to UV light is also being used in experiments with self-healing polymers, to repair scratch damage akin to pulling up a zipper.
Andy Pye discusses these and several more exciting innovations in his white paper. You’ll want to be sure to download and read the full document for a peek into the future of plastics: Understanding Functional Polymers: How Smart Materials Are Impacting the Plastics Industry.
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2 Responses to “3 Ways Functional Polymers Are Changing the Plastics Industry”
I found it interesting when you said that this kind of material will be able to display QR codes or barcodes temporarily when the needed. I guess this must be one of the reasons why my sister wanted to use this material for her future products. It appears that it will be useful for her to ensure that everything goes smoothly. She is still waiting for the approval of her loan application that is why she hasn’t started anything yet.
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