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Blog Article: Functional Polymers

By Angie Pedersen

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.

3D printer printing a red plastic house and building
Image by Martin from Pixabay

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.

1. Shape-shifting

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.

2. Electro-action

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.

Originally published on UL Prospector’s Knowledge Center: 3 Ways Functional Polymers Are Changing the Plastics Industry

Portfolio note

This piece is an example of my writing, as well as content strategy.

In one of my roles, I served as a content strategist and blog manager for a specialized raw material and ingredient search engine. I wrote the short blog article above as a shorter-form derivative of a white paper and linked it to the white paper download.

I also wrote posts to promote the blog article on our social media channels and in our bi-weekly newsletter.