Polymeric triple-shape materials
Shape-memory polymers represent a promising class of materials that can move from one shape to another in response to a stimulus such as heat. Thus far, these systems are dual-shape materials. Here, we report a triple-shape polymer able to change from a first shape (A) to a second shape (B) and from there to a third shape (C). Shapes B and C are recalled by subsequent temperature increases. Whereas shapes A and B are fixed by physical cross-links, shape C is defined by covalent cross-links established during network formation. The triple-shape effect is a general concept that requires the application of a two-step programming process to suitable polymers and can be realized for various polymer networks whose molecular structure allows formation of at least two separated domains providing pronounced physical cross-links. These domains can act as the switches, which are used in the two-step programming process for temporarily fixing shapes A and B. It is demonstrated that different combinations of shapes A and B for a polymer network in a given shape C can be obtained by adjusting specific parameters of the programming process. Dual-shape materials have already found various applications. However, as later discussed and illustrated by two examples, the ability to induce two shape changes that are not limited to be unidirectional rather than one could potentially offer unique opportunities, such as in medical devices or fasteners.