The new polymer will help robots to lift objects that are 5 thousand times heavier than the device

When stretched or deformed, memory polymers return to their original shape after exposure

heat or light.These materials could be used in soft robotics, smart biomedical devices, and deployable space structures, but they could not store enough energy. Now researchers have developed a shape memory polymer that stores nearly six times more energy than previous versions.

Shape memory polymers have severalstates: undeformed (secondary) and deformed. The deformed state is created by stretching the polymer and is held in place by molecular changes such as dynamic bond networks or strain-induced crystallization. It changes when exposed to heat or light. The polymer then returns to its original state by releasing the stored energy. But scientists have had a hard time getting these polymers to perform energy-intensive tasks.

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Now scientists have developed a new type of polymer withshape memory, which stretches into a stable, highly elongated state, allowing it to release a large amount of energy when it returns to its original state. In the initial state of the polymer, the polymer chains were entangled and disordered. Stretching led to the alignment of the chains and the formation of hydrogen bonds, which stabilized the highly elongated state. Heating caused the bonds to break and the polymer shrinks to its original, disordered state.

During the tests, the polymer was stretched five timeslonger than its original length and retained up to six times more energy than previous shape memory polymers. The team has shown that a stretched material can use this energy to lift objects 5,000 times the weight of the device.

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