A team of research scientists from the University of Bolton, England; the University of Manchester, England; and Harbin Institute of Technology, China, have collaborated on the development of a new shape-changing “smart” material that has potential in the medical textiles industries and in making better-fit prosthetic limbs. According to the researchers, the new material reacts to force; it undergoes dramatic changes in shape on simple stretching or compression. They have coined the phrase “piezomorphic materials” to describe the material’s unique behavior.
The researchers say that the potential applications are diverse. They have identified how a piezomorphic lining could respond to pressure applied when, for example, walking, to improve prosthetic fit and comfort. The team has also identified smart bandages as a potential application. A bandage layered with drugs, which could be released depending on wound swelling, would allow controlled, condition-dependent treatment without the need for constant wound checking. The material could also be used in the manufacture of advanced composite components for cars and aircraft.
“Morphing materials occur in nature-the venus fly trap changes shape in response to an electrochemical stimulus, when it feels the pressure of a fly,” said Andy Alderson, PhD, director of Bolton’s Institute for Materials Research and Innovation and the piezomorphic materials project leader. “Other morphing materials respond to changes in light, temperature, or magnetic field.
“Existing morphing materials are already used in the aerospace industry to create airplane wings that change shape, inspired by a bird’s wing.”
Their findings were previously published online in the journal Macromolecular Materials and Engineering.