In this DARPA-funded project, we teamed with a university partner to develop light-activated shape memory polymer (SMP). This new technology offers an alternative to thermal activation of the material that will enable shape-changing aerostructures and many more applications. The goals were to develop a material with no heat signature and no continuous energy source.
We began by developing a clear understanding of polymer molecular structure and how it affects the bulk structure. This led to a new class of polymers that demonstrated the ability to reversibly switch from flexible to stiff. The university partner embraced the challenges of developing entirely new characterization methods and provided real-time testing of the new polymer as well as material modeling.
Beyond Basic Solutions
Optimization and scale-up in the second phase led to continued testing, performance improvement, and successful fabrication of a light-activated composite prototype. Additional prototypes were designed by both our team and the university partner. Together, this diverse team of chemists and engineers, university researchers, and the customer developed new materials, novel testing methods, and new research avenues that reach beyond the original work plan.