A polymer that changes shape in response to a variety of temperatures could be used in a wide range of applications from temperature sensors to weather-responsive public art scientists claim.
Polymers that return to a previous conformation after stimulation are called shape memory polymers. Normally they have one critical temperature where the shape change begins and a different shape memory polymer is needed get responses at different temperatures. Now a team led by Patrick Mather at Syracuse University in the US has overcome this problem. ‘You can use one material with one base formulation’ says Mather. ‘It’s the first time that someone’s graded the response of a shape memory polymer.’