Shape memory polymers have a variety of potential applications in our society. These polymers can be altered through pressure or vapor exposure. When exposed to different organic vapors, the polymers will reflect different colors of light as the viewing angle is changed. In nature, butterflies and beetles utilize photonic crystals in survival techniques. We can apply similar techniques to protect ourselves. Potential uses of these polymers include detection of solvents in chemical weapons and pre-screening of diabetes.
Vapor-sensitive shape memory polymers were investigated in this study for their use in identifying differences amongst different organic vapors, such as ethanol and acetone. Varying vapor pressures were exposed to the surface of the polymers and the reflected wavelength and RGB color were analyzed. It was shown that surface tension and wavelength were linearly correlated. Organic substances with low surface tensions gave higher wavelengths of light refraction, and vice versa. With these new methods and future investment in this project we can begin to realize more applications of these smart polymers.
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