Light-triggered topological programmability in a dynamic covalent polymer network

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Science Advances  27 Mar 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 13, eaaz2362
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aaz2362


Dynamic covalent polymer networks exhibit unusual adaptability while maintaining the robustness of conventional covalent networks. Typically, their network topology is statistically nonchangeable, and their material properties are therefore nonprogrammable. By introducing topological heterogeneity, we demonstrate a concept of topology isomerizable network (TIN) that can be programmed into many topological states. Using a photo-latent catalyst that controls the isomerization reaction, spatiotemporal manipulation of the topology is realized. The overall result is that the network polymer can be programmed into numerous polymers with distinctive and spatially definable (thermo-) mechanical properties. Among many opportunities for practical applications, the unique attributes of TIN can be explored for use as shape-shifting structures, adaptive robotic arms, and fracture-resistant stretchable devices, showing a high degree of design versatility. The TIN concept enriches the design of polymers, with potential expansion into other materials with variations in dynamic covalent chemistries, isomerizable topologies, and programmable macroscopic properties.

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