Research Topic

Shape-Changing Polymers for Actively Moving Structures

About this Research Topic

Active structures display the key features of smart behaviour, i.e. the possibility to sense external stimuli and respond with a specific action, as well as adaptability, i.e. the ability to change shape or properties to cope with environmental changes. In addition, no need for continuous external ...

Active structures display the key features of smart behaviour, i.e. the possibility to sense external stimuli and respond with a specific action, as well as adaptability, i.e. the ability to change shape or properties to cope with environmental changes. In addition, no need for continuous external power/mechanical stimulus is required for such a response and a large set of possible stimuli (heat, solvent absorption, pH changes, light, electrical and magnetic fields) may be employed. Actively moving structures are able to convert a stimuli-responsive behaviour into a macroscopic movement and this can be achieved either thanks to the material’s intrinsic shape memory behaviour or to a specific microstructural arrangement, or even to a combination of both features. As a consequence, the active structure response relies on a finely engineered choice of materials, shapes and microstructures.

The interest towards the realization of polymer-based active structures was driven in an early stage by the aim of obtaining shape memory polymers with tailored properties and to employ them in innovative applications: this large scientific effort contributed to a great understanding of this peculiar response and highlighted a variety of possible shape memory effects for specific polymer families. The second rise of interest stemmed from the emerging 3D-printing technologies: in fact, the so-called “4D-printing” assessed the possibility to obtain active structures based on inherently shape-changing materials and/or on properly structuring the material in multi-material assembly or in combination with specific printing strategies, such as layering materials with built-in programmed stress to later be exploited for self-assembly or soft actuation.
However, in spite of a large amount of research in these fields, some aspects may be still considered frontier topics within the progress of active structures, and this regards in particular, the ability to obtain a fully reversible response and to fully exploit it in softly actuated systems.


This Research Topic focuses on various aspects related to actively moving polymers, and in particular on synthesis/preparation, characterization and modelling of polymer-based systems capable of reversible motion, providing also some examples, proof of concepts and applications cases. Areas of interest could include but are not limited to:

• Polymer systems inherently capable of reversible motion: two-way shape memory polymers; reversible (or stress-free) two-way shape memory polymers; 3D-printing of reversible shape memory polymers

• Polymer-based systems capable of structurally-driven reversible motion: multi-material printing, composite materials or functionally graded materials; polymer-based bi-stable and multi-stable structures

• Polymer-based actively moving structure: exploitation of reversible motions in structures; processing and assembly of actively moving structures; application of active structures in soft robotics


Keywords: shape memory, polymers, reversible actuation, actuation, 4D printing, 4D printed actuators, 4D printed metamaterials, metamaterials, soft robotics, shape changing polymers


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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Submission Deadlines

01 February 2022 Manuscript
01 March 2022 Manuscript Extension

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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Topic Editors

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Submission Deadlines

01 February 2022 Manuscript
01 March 2022 Manuscript Extension

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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