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UR: Material altered by body heat has medical promise

 A University of Rochester research team has created a material that changes shape after being triggered by body heat alone, which could lead to new medical and other applications.

According to UR, the material – developed by chemical engineering professor Mitch Anthamatten and graduate student Yuan Meng – is a type of shape-memory polymer, which can be programmed to retain a temporary shape until it is triggered, typically by heat, to return to its original shape.

“Tuning the trigger temperature is only one part of the story,” Anthamatten said in a statement. “We also engineered these materials to store large amount of elastic energy, enabling them to perform more mechanical work during their shape recovery.”

The findings are being published this week in the Journal of Polymer Science Part B: Polymer Physics, UR officials said.

The shape-memory polymer is capable of lifting an object 1,000 times its weight, according to UR. For example, a polymer the size of a shoelace – which weighs about a gram – could lift a liter of soda.

Anthamatten said the polymer could have a variety of applications, including sutures, artificial skin, body-heat assisted medical dispensers, and self-fitting apparel.