Multimorphic Materials: Spatially Tailoring Mechanical Properites Via Selective Initiation of Interpenetrating Polymer Networks

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Polymer Science and Engineering


Access to multimaterial polymers with spatially localized properties and robust interfaces is anticipated to enable new capabilities in soft robotics, such as smooth actuation for advanced medical and manufacturing technologies. Here, orthogonal initiation is used to create interpenetrating polymer networks (IPNs) with spatial control over morphology and mechanical properties. Base catalyzes the formation of a stiff and strong polyurethane, while blue LEDs initiate the formation of a soft and elastic polyacrylate. IPN morphology is controlled by when the LED is turned “on”, with large phase separation occurring for short time delays (≈1–2 min) and a mixed morphology for longer time delays (>5 min), which is supported by dynamic mechanical analysis, small angle X-ray scattering, and atomic force microscopy. Through tailoring morphology, tensile moduli and fracture toughness can be tuned across ≈1–2 orders of magnitude. Moreover, a simple spring model is used to explain the observed mechanical behavior. Photopatterning produces “multimorphic” materials, where morphology is spatially localized with fine precision (<100 µm), while maintaining a uniform chemical composition throughout to mitigate interfacial failure. As a final demonstration, the fabrication of hinges represents a possible use case for multimorphic materials in soft robotics.

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Advanced Materials

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