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plastic news Illinois chemistryAn international team of researchers has identified a mechanism that triggers shape-memory phenomena in the organic crystals used in plastic electronics. Shape-shifting structural materials have generally been made with metal alloys, but a new generation of economical printable plastic electronics is now poised to benefit from this phenomenon. Shape-memory materials science and plastic electronics technology, when merged, could open the door to advances in low-power electronics, medical electronics devices and multifunctional shape-memory materials.

The researchers report their finding of shape-memory phenomenon in two organic semiconductor materials in a paper in Nature Communications.

Devices like the expandable stents that open and unblock clogged human blood vessels take advantage of shape-memory technology. This involves physically deforming a material and then using heat, light and electrical signals, or mechanical forces, to trigger the material to expand, contract, bend and morph back to its original form, which can be done repeatedly. This effect works well with metals but remains elusive in synthetic organic materials because of the complexity of the molecules used to create them.

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