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  • Charge and Release

    Electrostatics and Thermal Regulation in Smart Materials Design

    Charge and Release

    Electrostatics and Thermal Regulation in Smart Materials Design

    Speakers: Eric Dufresne (Yale University) and Steven P. Bitler (Landec Corporation)Presented by the Soft Materials Discussion Group
    Reported by Sarah Webb | Posted August 4, 2009

    Overview

    Smart materials are polymers and other materials that respond to external stimuli. An April 23, 2009, meeting of the Academy's Soft Materials Discussion Group focused on some basic research that is helping to develop smart materials and on several applications that have already reached consumers.

    Eric Dufresne of Yale University described research exploring electrostatic interactions between molecules in different environments. By understanding optical forces and thermal fluctuations his team has made it possible to measure femtoNewton-scale forces between micron-sized plastic particles suspended in oil. The plastic particles can charge spontaneously, and it's possible to observe long-range electrostatic interactions between them. Observations suggest the particles act as micron-sized batteries; the surface charge densities of the particles adjust to maintain fixed electrostatic potentials on the particle surface.

    Steven P. Bitler described several successes in integrating temperature-responsive polymers into everyday products. By inserting a variety of co-monomers into side chain crystalline polymers, he and his colleagues can modulate the polymer properties, including melting temperature. Such polymers provide temperature-sensitive materials for smart food packaging, thermosetting mixtures such as epoxy, personal care products, quick release adhesives, agricultural seed coatings, and drug delivery.

    Thank you to Professor Qipeng Guo from Deakin University's Centre for Material and Fibre Innovation for use of the title image.

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